Dragon boat festival adds second day

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Sponsors recently decided to add a second day to the second Montana Dragon Boat Festival at Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork.

At least a dozen teams already have entered the Sept. 7-8, 2013, event, which will follow a successful inaugural festival that drew an estimated 4,000 people to the lodge grounds.

With the extra day, the festival will offer more heats over a day and a half before the finals, as well as give more teams a shot at entering. Fifty-six teams raced in 2012, and Diane Medler, director of the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau, said registration probably will close at around 80 to 85 teams this year.

“The reason for having a second day is we wanted a draw for traveling competitive teams; it’s what they’re used to experiencing at festivals,” Medler said.

Organizers expect to receive more entries from out-of-town dragon boat club teams. Medler said some clubs practice two or three times a week year-round to race in national and international dragon boat competitions.

A few club teams did participate in the first Montana festival, but the local Team Nomad ended up winning the competitive category, in spite of not having previous race experience.

Luring more out-of-town teams is a big goal for 2013, as visitors for the first festival generated an estimated $500,000 for the local economy.

A Montana Department of Commerce special event grant for $23,000 helped with promotion of the 2012 festival in Canada and nearby metropolitan areas such as Portland and Seattle. Medler is working to secure that same grant again for next year.

Medler said even though the sponsoring organizations heard overwhelmingly positive responses and they were pleased with the results, there is always room for improvement.

“One thing we will look at is parking, making that easier, and we’ll enable teams to set up their tents the night before, which will give the morning a much smoother flow,” she said. “But in the big scheme of things the problems were minor.”

Register for the 2013 Montana Dragon Boat Festival at http://montana.racedragonboats.com/

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