MARATHON, Florida Keys — Organizers of the annual Battle in the Bay Dragon Boat Festival, set for Saturday, June 1, off Marathon, encourage corporate, community and recreational clubs to sign up and compete to raise money for their respective charities in the fun team-building event.
Paddlers do not need to be athletes but should have a penchant for fun. Sombrero Beach provides a uniquely easy from-the-shore launch for the boats, and beachgoers and spectators are provided a festive day of fun in the sun along with fast-paced racing excitement.
Teams of 20 paddlers can join and race alongside teams like the Conch Republic Navy or Linked in Pink, an enthusiastic group of breast cancer survivors who often race in a countrywide dragon-race circuit.
Elaborately decorated 40-foot-long racing “dragons” are propelled in unison along a 400-meter racecourse, directed by a drummer and steersperson who keep rhythm.
Dragons represent strength in Chinese culture and are powerful symbols of spring rains and growth. The modern dragon boat race re-enacts a legend from the fourth century B.C. in which the patriotic poet Qu Yuan, advisor to the emperor of the Ch’u dynasty, defied his ruler by drowning himself in the Mi Lo River. In a race to save their martyr Qu Yuan from the creatures of the deep, the area’s fishermen beat drums and vigorously splashed the water with their paddles.
Group teams of up to 25 people can register until May 25 in categories for mixed paddlers, women, seniors, youth and breast cancer survivors. Interested individual paddlers can be placed on an existing team.
Fees are $1,200 for local teams, $850 for visiting teams and $650 for breast cancer survivor teams. Paddles, life vests, training and coaching are provided.
Racing is expected to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and conclude around 2 p.m., followed by awards, music and a beach celebration. Each team typically races three times on race day.
Beachside attractions during the festival include food and beverages, merchandise, kids’ play areas and entertainment. There is no charge to attend beachside activities.
Event information and team registration: battleinthebaydragonboat.com/
Marathon visitor information: fla-keys.com/marathon or 1-800-262-7284