By Mary Elizabeth Dial, Staff Correspondent
Gadsden-Etowah Habitat for Humanity held its annual Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday, August 20 at Gadsden’s Riverwalk Park. The races, which began at 9 am, featured teams made up of professional and social groups from the Gadsden area and beyond, with rowers and spectators coming from as far away was Texas and Ohio.
Twenty-two teams competed in the Dragon Boat races, which included both competitive and recreational brackets. The Modern Woodmen Financial “Rogue Returns” team took home the prize in the competitive races, followed by Crossfit Rabid’s “Red” team in second and Gadsden Parks & Recreation’s “Noccalul-OARS” in third. Meanwhile, Exchange Bank of Alabama’s “Taking it to the Bank” team won the recreational races, beating second place St. James’ “Holy Rollers” by less than a second and the “BBVA Compass Crew” by little more. Teams who were slower in the water made their mark with elaborately decorated tents and distinctive t-shirts, proving that the real prize in this event was the opportunity to be part of a team.
In addition to watching the races, vendors sold delicious food ranging from cotton candy to pizza to fresh-squeezed lemonade. Anyone who felt inspired by the racing boats could check out the Gadsden Outfitters booth for new athletic and outdoor gear. Between races, spectators were treated to entertainment by CharACTers Children’s Theater, Jacksonville State University’s Tropical Breeze steel drum band and the Drummer’s Parade led by Janyce Whisenant and bagpiper Cecil Knowles.
Habitat for Humanity President Suzanne Scharfenberg could not have been more pleased with this year’s races.
“We were so blessed with good weather. I know God answered all our prayers, because the forecast was not that promising the day before… We had a wonderful event and a great turnout.”
The festival was a great time for teams and spectators alike, but it also served a higher purpose. The money raised will go toward the building of Habitat for Humanity’s 50th house in their 20 years of service in the Etowah County area.
According to Scharfenberg, the next Gadsden-Etowah Habitat for Humanity Dragon Boat Festival is tentatively planned for August 19, 2017.