“Paddles up!” will be the cry heard across Lake Dora when the Central Florida Dragon Boat Festival gets underway on March 10.
Three categories of teams participate in the races that are watchable from the shore of Wooton Park. Teams of dragon boat enthusiasts that practice regularly and race often will compete against each other in one group, while community teams whose members have a wide range of experience, or none at all, compete separately.
Dragon boat racing began in ancient China and is a fast-growing water sport with more than 2 million race participants worldwide. Crews consist of 10 or 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steersperson. The drummer provides the “steady beat of the dragon heart,” and crew members paddle in rhythm to the sound of the drum to ensure perfect synchronicity. The elongated boats are adorned with brightly painted dragon heads and tails.
The annual Tavares event is now in its 16th year and is free for spectators. The day’s festivities at Wooton Park begin with opening ceremonies at 8 a.m. followed by the start of the races, a car show, food and craft vendors and continual live entertainment in addition to the dragon boat races.
The area’s Rotary Club is the event’s sponsor and uses the proceeds from the teams’ registration, vendor fees and sponsorships to provide local students with scholarships.
Wooton Park is located in downtown Tavares at 100 E. Ruby Street.