The International Dragon Boat Festival is this Saturday at Walt Disney World Resort, but don’t let the name fool you. There aren’t any fire-breathing dragons involved. Just some really long and funky-looking boats with dragon heads and tails being rowed feverishly by 20, plus a drummer and a guide.
It sounds like a quirky sport, but race organizers say Dragon Boat racing is actually the fastest-growing water sport in the country. Saturday’s race at Downtown Disney is certainly growing in popularity. Last year the number of teams doubled to about 70. This year there will likely be even more.
And the teams come from places far beyond Central Florida. Even as far away as Canada and Trinidad. The lure is apparently the opportunity to take part in this ancient Chinese sport that dates back more than 20 centuries and re-emerged in Hong Kong in the mid-1970s as an international endurance sport.
Today, it’s become a community event embraced by novices as well as experienced men and women rowers competing in nine divisions, including a special one promoting breast cancer awareness. I’d say every team competing in that division is already a winner in my book.
If you want to watch the races, check out the colorful dragon boats and soak in the music, entertainment and post-race celebrations. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Village Lake near Downtown Disney.