Return of the paddlers

Badger Lake will see more activity than usual this weekend as the Badger Lake Dragon Boat Bash comes to John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, featuring more participants than in the past few years.

So far, 25 teams have signed up to take part in the 19th Dragon Boat Bash, which begins Friday night.

“That’s the biggest number we’ve had in a number of years,” co-organizer Barb Michaels said. “They’re mostly local teams.”

Every year sees both local and out-of-state teams participate. Michaels said this year there are teams from not only Fort Dodge and Webster County but also Cedar Rapids and Ames, as well as Rochester and St. Paul in Minnesota.

“The sport is growing and evolving in the Midwest,” Michaels said.

The Badger Lake Dragon Boat Association regularly travels to other dragon boating events to recruit teams for the local Bash.

Recently, the local Association was in Chicago, Ill., where they not only met some new teams, but also those who have competed at the Dragon Boat Bash as well.

Michaels said many of the competitors are veterans of the Badger Lake Dragon Boat Bash.

“People will do it for a couple years, then they won’t do it for awhile,” she said. “But then they realize that they miss doing it so they’ll sign up again.”

This year’s teams include four comprised of breast cancer survivors.

“That’s been growing steadily over the last few years,” Michaels said. “They’re our largest level of participation.”

Several of the teams that have signed up for this year’s Dragon Boat Bash include local companies and businesses, which put together teams of employees.

According to Michaels, this can help improve relationships between co-workers.

“It’s a great social activity as well as a team-building event,” she said. “It’s awesome when the community sees the value in an activity like this.”

There will also be a performance on Friday night by Boogie and the Yoyoz.

Linda Donner, co-organizer, said a Badger Lake Dragon Boat Association goal is to get more young people interested in dragon boating.

“We still have an opportunity in the youth boats,” Donner said. “The only way to see any sport grow is to have the youth see it.”