Park Rapids Rotary captures bronze at Dragon Boat Festival

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Grace Pastoor
Forum News Service

Despite an initial slow start, the HydraHeads made Dragon Boat history Saturday, winning the Gold Division Cup for the fourth consecutive time.
The Park Rapids Rotary team captured the Bronze cup.
The team, from Headwaters Canoe and Kayak, secured the top spot in the final race with a time of 2:16.30, coming in about two seconds ahead of the second-place Cedar River Gang. Team captain Mark Walters said the veteran team put in about 3,000 hours of paddling in preparation for the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.
“Most of us canoe race throughout the spring, summer and fall, and then we have a local boat here that we share with the community,” Walters said.
The HydraHeads initially trailed the Keg n Cork’s Wooly Irishmen, but caught up just before the race’s halfway point. The Irishmen continued to fall behind, and finished fourth with a time of 2:22.01.
“This was tough, but it was a really good race,” Walters said. “We got a lot of great competition here, it was a lot of fun. We really had to put it out pretty hard there at the end.”
Despite their four-year-long streak, the HydraHeads don’t know what next year will bring.
“We’ll think about that in about three months,” Walters said. “We don’t really start getting into planning until February, but we don’t change our formula too much.”
Two other teams also made Bemidji Dragon Boat history Saturday. The winners of the Gold and Silver cups were each the first team to win their respective cup twice. The Knife River Materials Rock N Rowers won the Silver Division Cup with a time of 2:24.09, and the Park Rapids Rotary Wavemakers won the Bronze Division Cup with a time of 2:19.64.
Heather Backus, the Rock N Rowers’ team captain, said she was shocked to find out her team was the first to win the Silver Cup twice.
“I would have assumed that more teams have won it more than once,” Backus said.
Three races in one day can be grueling, but Backus said motivating her team was easy.
“It’s just a fun day to participate in, so it’s pretty easy to get people to come,” she said.
The Wavemakers, who won the Bronze Cup in 2010, managed to beat out the competition by about six seconds — despite being two paddlers short. Though the team has been participating in the festival for 10 years, team captain Mark Hewitt said half of the group was new.
“We didn’t know how we were going to do,” Hewitt said. “It’s fun to win a race.”
The races were the centerpiece of the four-day festival, which included a taco feed, cornhole tournament, a 5K, a children’s scavenger hunt and live music. Each team also had the opportunity to set up a themed tent in the Team Village, with the best display winning an award. This year the Scurvy Stitchers, made up of employees from Blackduck’s Anderson Fabrics took home the prize with a pirate-themed tent complete with a skeleton.
Members of each winning team said the most enjoyable part of the festival was watching the community come together.
“We really enjoy paddling and we enjoy paddling together so much, so it’s the camaraderie,”Walters said. “We have a good time here, you know, win, lose, draw, it’s just a lot of fun.”