Montgomery Dragon Boat Festival: Fierce Competition & Serious Fun
A steady drum beat is periodically interrupted by shouts of “Dig!”, “Go!” and “Faster!” bouncing off the water as long, thin, brightly colored boats with fierce dragon faces embellishing their bows glide across the surface of the Alabama River propelled by 20 paddlers kept in sync by the droning rhythm of the drums.
It’s a scene that’s unfurled one Saturday in late August for seven years now in Montgomery: the race portion of the annual Montgomery Dragon Boat Festival.
Started in 2010, this free festival brings community members of all ages from across Central Alabama together at Montgomery’s Riverfront Park downtown to eat, drink, row and race, all to raise money for two local charities, Bridge Builders Alabama and Rebuilding Together Central Alabama. Since its beginnings, the event has raised almost a quarter of a million dollars.
In the weeks leading up to the event, teams comprised of friends, co-workers, Sunday School classes and more are formed; clever teams names are chosen (like Draggin’ Tail, DisOARderlies, OAREagle, Row Tide and Great Balls of Fire); team tents are decorated; and good-spirited rivalries heat up the action (as do the summer temps).
For 2016, more than 70 teams competed for the Grand Championship Trophy, filling the day with preliminary races on a 300-meter course to decide which groups would row in the final race and try for the big win. This year, the Pike Rowed Patriots took home the honors.
The boat races may be the main focus of this fun-filled event, but they are by no means all it offers. In addition to watching and cheering for the races, participants and onlookers wander the grounds, meander through team tents, enjoy bites from local food vendors, shop the wares of local craftspeople and artists and listen to the live music coming from entertainers on the Amphitheatre stage.
Learn more about this annual event at montgomerydragonboat.org