Crowds thrilled by dragon sightings

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Dragon boats returning from a heat at the Montana Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday, September 12, in Lakeside. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

The fourth annual Dragon Boat Festival was teeming with spectators and teams alike Saturday at the event’s first year in Lakeside. Volunteer Park was filled with food trucks and team tents, while the beach was lined with lawn chairs and bare feet.

From Canada to California, 63 teams geared up for the races that began at 8:30 a.m. The level of seriousness ranged widely among them, from rigorously competitive to simply cheerful.

One team circled their tent, chanting like warriors while they stretched before their race. Another team stretched out on the beach and sipped beer, watching other boats skim across the water.

Most teams promoted some sort of theme with their uniforms. The Tsunami Torrent Team dressed as pirates, complete with skull-and-crossbones bandanas and a few eye patches. The team was made up of employees from Torrent Technology Inc., a Kalispell flood insurance company.

Travis Craft, team captain for the Tsunami Torrent team said he enjoyed the change in venue from the previous years in Bigfork, and the new ability to stroll the Lakeside community.

“It’s great because of the businesses and food carts they can fit down here,” Craft said. “It looks like everyone else is pretty excited about it. There have been a ton of people walking around.”

Craft said the Tsunami Torrent Team has used the pirate theme for the last three years, and is happy to have such an event so close to home.

“We’re pretty excited,” Craft said. “This is our third year. It’s mostly just for the fun side of things.”

The Raunchy Rodents, a first-year team at the Dragon Boat Festival, drove 459 miles from Edmonton, Canada, but they’re used to traveling for dragon boat events. The rodents have already competed in two dragon boat races this year, the Nanaimo race in British Columbia and a race in Hong Kong back in July.

Having seen several beautiful venues in their dragon boating career, Lakeside certainly stuck out, said captain Kathryn Bryan.

“It’s really stunning,” Bryan said. “And the people here are so friendly and welcoming. It’s a great event.

“This is also the first really sunny weather we’ve had at a race this year,” said paddler Erick Barba. “That makes a huge difference.”

At noon, the races took a brief hiatus for the BCS Pink Rose Ceremony and a moment of silence to remember those who had been lost to breast cancer. Speakers from two teams, the Portland Phoenix and the St. Paul Dragon Divas, spoke about the friends lost and made during the fight against breast cancer. Pink roses were handed to the two teams that docked for the ceremony, and Kalispell singer Amanda Caldwell sang a touching rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”

“We’re here because of our friend and team member Susan Dean,” said Portland Phoenix paddler Kristi Karter-Olsen. Dean had succumbed earlier this year to breast cancer. “She was from Montana, and she was so vibrant. She really wanted to be here.”

The Portland team participates in several dragon boat races around the West Coast and Canada, from Long Beach in Southern California and Lake Victoria. The team has 90 members, Karter-Olsen said.

Karter-Olsen was herself diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, and joined the team six years later to find support. There’s been a lot of unfortunate turnover on the team since it began, Karter-Olsen said, which is why events like the rose ceremony are important.

“It’s encouraging to us that we can value that we survived and take part in sports like these,” she said. “Through these races you find such great support and meet such great people. It’s worth it to get out and do what you love.”

On Saturday afternoon the time to beat was 2 minutes, 20.96 seconds, put up by team Catch 22. The dragon boat races continue today at 9 a.m., as teams have been set into divisions by Saturday’s qualifying rounds. Championship rounds begin at 1 p.m.

  •  At 9:30 a.m., musician Dan Dubuque will perform at Volunteer Park pavilion.
  •  The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony at 2 p.m.

Free parking on Saturday was largely gone by 9:30 a.m., but businesses around the area were offering paid parking for $10 to $20.

Reporter Seaborn Larson may be reached at 758-4441 or by email at

Spectators enjoying the races at the Montana Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday, September 12, in Lakeside. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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