Last Saturday, Nashville held its 6th annual Cumberland River Dragon Boat Festival at Riverfront Park. The event is to benefit the Cumberland River Compact, dedicated to keeping all 697 miles of the river clean and community friendly.
What does a dragon boat festival entail, you ask? A dragon boat race of course! This year there were 42 teams from all over the area participating in the day-long event. Businesses, schools, and organizations all formed teams vying for the coveted dragon boat trophy.
Here’s the deal: A dragon boat consists of 16-20 rowers and a drummer with a professional dragon boater steering from the rear. Each heat is a four-boat race of 250 meters. Without delving into scoring specifics, generally, times are averaged to gauge the fastest overall boat.
The drummer’s job is to keep the pace of the boat, which is actually the most important job. Of course, you may not think the drummers took said job very seriously from some of the costumes they were sporting. There were folks dawned in dragon attire, a chicken costume, a crayfish costume, a full-bodied camouflage outfit, capes, masks, helmets and a random assortment of other accessories.
The awesome costumes, of course, are paired with amazing team names – as would be expected in any charitable competition. Racing for the top prize we had We’re Sexy And We Row It, Inglorious BastOars, STAR RoWARS and the very clever name of a lawfirm-based team: Row not Wade (for those who don’t get it, find a history book).
There was a DJ blasting music and emceeing the entire day, giving a play-by-play of each race. He also organized dances during lulls in the action (yep, I saw grown men in costume doing the Cupid Shuffle). Food vendors and souvenirs were aplenty, and the festival even featured traditional Japanese dances and music.
On a personal note, this was my second year racing with The Massey Machine, representing Belmont University’s Massey Graduate School of Business. This event is truly some of the most fun I have all year. We get fiercely competitive; probably taking it a little too seriously… at least until we all meet up for drinks afterwards.
The year before I joined the team, Massey won the entire thing. Last year, we unfortunately dropped to the runners up spot, getting beaten by the rugby team (whatever, they’re large, athletic people). This year we somehow dropped to a dismal fifth place. (I don’t want to talk about it; I’m getting emotional.) But fifth out of 42 isn’t the worst thing in the world. And no, my joining the team has nothing to do with the fact that our standings have diminished!
Anyway, I would like to give a personal shout out to the organizers of the event, and the volunteers who do a tremendous job. Also to all the new friends we had the good fortune of making in the spirit of competition for a good cause. We’re coming after you next year! Finally, to the Massey Machine team, especially our fearless leader Don Wolfe. I cannot think of a better group of people to do this with. Next year we’re taking that sum’bitch home!
Watch a clip of the traditional opening ceremony below:
About the Cumberland River Compact
The Cumberland River Compact works to enhance the water quality of the Cumberland River and its tributaries through education and by promoting cooperation among citizens, businesses, and agencies in Kentucky and Tennessee. We believe that communities can have both a strong economy and a healthy environment.