dragon boats 2018 7

Teams pilot their vessels on the Tennessee River at McFarland Park in Florence during the 2018 Dragon Boat races. [FILE PHOTO]

FLORENCE — Teams will once again be tested as they take to the Tennessee River in 40-foot boats Saturday for the Dragon Boat Festival at McFarland Park, but it will be more than just a friendly race out on the water.

For the second year, the festival will double as a fundraiser for Shoals Scholar Dollars. It will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

“We are seeking to make this fundraiser the help we need to restore the scholarships that we had to reduce due to lack of funding,” wrote Randy Pettus, executive director of Shoals Scholar Dollars, in a news release.

Pettus said Kilby Laboratory School previously conducted the Dragon Boat Festival “very successfully” for five years.

Dragon boat racing is thought to have originated more than 2,300 years ago in southern China. Since then, it has spread internationally as a sport and continues to be practiced as part of annual water rituals and festivals.

Dynamic Boats will provide the vessels for Saturday’s race. Each boat will be a 40-foot skid paddle boat made to resemble a dragon. Life jackets and one steer person per boat will also be provided.

The boats will have enough space to accommodate a standard crew of 22 people, including the steer person. Twenty paddlers will sit in pairs facing forward.

A drummer will be positioned at the bow, facing the paddlers and keeping a beat to help regulate the paddling. The person steering stands at the stern to help control the direction of the boat.

According to the release, 15 teams will be competing in this year’s race for the Paddle Trophy. Each team’s drummer will also be vying for the title of “Best Drummer.”

Pettus said a partnership between businesses and schools to provide scholarships would be beneficial to both sides.

“If we can get businesses and manufacturers to participate alongside the schools as a joint partnership, we can not only raise funds to provide skilled workers for these businesses, but also introduce them to a new opportunity for a promising career,” he wrote in the release.

In addition to the race, the festival will feature vendors, local musicians and a kid’s zone with inflatables. Attendees are advised to bring lawn chairs.

—kendyl.hollingsworth@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5757. Follow on Twitter @TD_KendylH

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