Registration now open for Dragon Boat Festival


By Sarrah Peters

News Editor

Habitat for Humanity of Etowah County currently is working on its 48th house project in Etowah County. The house is a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom home for Etowah County resident Alicia Veal and her handicapped son and two teenage grandchildren.

To fund its homes, Habitat is holding its 5th annual Dragon Boat Festival on August 20 at Riverwalk Par in Gadsden. 

“The goal of the Habitat Dragon Boat Festival is to raise funds to continue the mission of building simple, decent and affordable houses in our community,” said co-chairman Steve Scharfenberg. “We want to raise awareness of the Habitat ministry, to inform families of the eligibility requirements, and to attract more volunteers while having a great time on the water.”

The dragon boat races are a fun way to raise money and support for the cause. Dragon boat racing can trace its roots back 2,300 years. The boats are 46 foot long Hong Kong styled boats with decorative dragon heads and tails. During races, a drummer and steerer lead the paddlers down the race course at speeds of 10 to 15 miles per hour.

The races are quite popular in Gadsden. According to Habitat over 600 athletes and paddlers competed in last year’s race.  Habitat encourages friends, families and co-workers to come together to make a team for the upcoming festival. Team registration is now open. For more information or registration forms, call 256-543-1898, email or visit  or Facebook/habitatdragonboat.

Not the most athletic? Success at dragon boat racing depends heavily on teamwork more then athletic prowess. 

“Participants rave about the excitement, friendly competition and community spirit surrounding the sport,” said co-chair Suzanne Scharfenberg. “It is the ultimate in team building for nearly all ages, skill levels and physiques, requiring synchronicity and finesse, more than power, to win” 

Participants will race a first round, and the race times will determine whether the team will be placed in the Competitive or Recreational.

“Gold, silver and bronze award paddles will be presented to the top three places in both divisions,” said Suzanne.

The competitors surely seem to enjoy the day of races.

“Every year I look forward to the adventure that is the Habitat Dragon Boat races,” said Mandy Hill, finance manager at Gadsden Job Corps Center and co-captain of St. James Catholic Church’s team “Holy Rowers.”  “It is a fun team-building activity that supports a great cause.”

“We have participated all four years,” said Wilbur (Bubba) Masters, City President of Regions Bank and a member of the University of Alabama Alumni Association’s team “Row Tide.” “The event has grown to be one of the most attended community events in our town. The competition, creativity, enthusiasm and team spirit highlight this well organized event. We’ve already collected money for the 2016 race and plan to bring our Crimson Pride back to the Coosa.”

Admission and parking will be free for spectators. Attendees are welcome to bring lawn chairs, shade umbrellas or small canopy tents and spend the day at the river. There is also a shaded picnic area.

Vendors will also be at the festival providing spectators with food and beverages, kid’s activities, entertainment and music. If you are interested in becoming a vendor, contact the office at 256-543-1898.

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