First City Dragon Boat Club Ready For The Festival
While many paddlers are just getting in the water for the first time this week, The First City Dragon Boat Club has been hard at work both this summer and the past six years, growing the sport in Bemidji.
“We work with any individual or any given parts of any of the local teams that are involved in dragon boating, whether they’re in the festival or not,” says Mark Walters, one of the co-founders of the club. “We’ll take out groups of people who have nothing to do with the festival.”
While improving race times is a bonus, it’s not the only goal of the club.
“We are trying to overall increase wellness,” says John Arenz, another co-founder. “Dragon boating connotes physical activity, and folks that want to get involved with dragon boating or get better at dragon boating, they have to become more physically fit.”
But don’t just think of it as a workout.
“Not only is it good for you, it’s a lot of fun,” says Arenz. “It’s not so much doing it because we’re going to win; you don’t win anything. You can win something in your head but there’s no money involved or anything. It’s because they just have fun doing it. And they say that it’s good for them too, the exercise.”
That fun culminates every year in the Bemidji dragon boat festival, where members of the club get to show off their stuff.
“The dragon boat festival is just an absolute hoot,” says Walters. “It’s an all-day long event, it’s friends and people from different parts of Minnesota, or Wisconsin, there’s Canadians that come down. So there’s a lot of camaraderie. There’s also some very good competition between all the local teams and in all the various cup divisions in the Bemidji festival.”