Return of the dragon boats

Until Saturday, John Dangl, of St. Paul, had never worn an alligator hat with one eye missing out in public.

The 17th annual CJ Bio American Badger Lake Dragon Boat Bash in John F. Kennedy Memorial Park gave him an opportunity to do that and have another first as well.

“I’ve never been in a boat of any kind,” he said. “Ever.”

A member of the Arch Allies band, which played at the event Friday evening, he and fellow band members jumped at the chance to try something new.

He wasn’t too worried about falling into the lake; “They promised to pull me out,” he said.

Fellow band member Matt Paulus got to wear a chicken hat for the race.

Like Dangl, he’s had no practice or preparation.

“We did get our safety briefing,” he said.

He learned some important dragon boat racing tactics.

“Splash everybody behind you,” he said. “Then stand up and rock the boat.”

While there were plenty of colorful hats for them to pick from to wear while racing, one of his fellow band members offered a simple reason for his selection of the poultry.

“He matches his hat,” he said.

Once on the lake, paddling with a group of experienced racers, the band did fine – until the halfway mark.

They appeared to have mistaken it for the finish line when they stopped paddling and well, lost the race.

Cindy Schieber, of Fort Dodge, has been paddling since 1998.

She’s keeps the pace for the Da Dragons team.

“I mostly drum,” she said. “I have a big mouth and no muscles.”

She said that she enjoys getting together with people that she only sees once a year.

“It’s friendship, camaraderie and a little competition,” she said.

She’s happy to see a lot of new fresh faces turning out to race.

“Some of us are getting pretty old,” she said.

For the record, she’s 44.

Laura Wooster, of Fort Dodge, joined her team a little too late to join them in pre-event practice.

“It’s cold turkey for me,” she said.

She said there’s a learning curve, even for an experience canoe paddler.

“This is different,” she said. “I’m learning how to use my back and legs to power.”

Wooster’s a quick study.

“Hopefully by the last race I’ll figure it out,” she said.

Barb Michaels, co-chair of the event, said that 25 teams made it to this year’s races.

“That’s the most since 2000,” she said.