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Dragons will soon be on the lake


Orion's annual festival returns bigger and better than ever before



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The winning team from the 2011 Dragon Boat Races - The Island Bombers. Photo submitted (click for larger version)
July 18, 2012 - Lake Orion is growing in fame thanks to the national focus on the auto industry and sporting events like the Senior Open, but where would Lake Orion be without festivals like Dragon on the Lake?

Thankfully, Orion residents won't have to wonder, as the event is nearly here once again - this time being directed by the new Art Director Lauren Dinneweth.

"I love it, to me it is truly our community event," said Dinneweth. "Anytime you take something on for the first time it is a challenge but I see it as an opportunity to reach more people and bring more people together, so I embrace it. It's all things Dragon."

The festival will feature the usual events, including the ever-popular dragon boat races. Dinneweth said most of last year's features will return, including lots of art, the chalk art show, the Meek's Park children's' area (which will feature a bouncy house among other attractions), artists demonstrating their skill from sculpting to carving, a main stage for musical bands and more.

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Yet the event will not simply be a repeat of last year - Dinneweth means to orchestrate a number of improvements and logistical changes that will make the event flow smoothly, allow for more attractions and give the downtown area proper dues.

"I feel that if you're going to bring in 15,000 or 20,000 people to your community, you should at least make sure they see the downtown, so the route of the festival is moving into the downtown area this year," said Dinneweth. "To me it embodies what the art center is about: partnering with the people in our community."

Those aren't the only changes. New to the children's area are llama rides and a sand play area. The Dragon Pub, (along with food and merchandise vendors,) is moving to the Village municipal lot on the corner of Anderson and Shadbolt for logistical purposes. A relaxation lot has also been assigned to aid people who simply need to get out of the sun for a bit.

The chalk art will move to the sidewalks of downtown (though space will be left for people to maneuver around the pieces) so pedestrian cans admire the art long after the event is over.

"The surface of the parking lot turned out to not be the best for drawing on with chalk," said Dinneweth. "It was always so sad when Monday came around and that art became a parking lot against. By moving it downtown, more people will be able to enjoy it and it will last a lot longer."

An 80's block party will punctuate Saturday night with music from the 80's (played live) and dancers fitting a retro theme. Dinneweth said they have plans to change the dance every year if this year's event is popular.

Finally, a new focus on special needs will allow this year to see a special needs focus area in the gazebo at Children's Park.

Work on the event started in January but Dinneweth said it's "coming along very well." Volunteers are still needed however, as well as dragon boat racers. Dinneweth mentioned the event was a good, relatively inexpensive to host a team building exercise and that the event is simply "a blast."

Previous years saw about 20,000 people attend, so Dinneweth said they're expecting more than that this year.

It brings notoriety in terms of history and past community, it brings thousands of people into Lake Orion to celebrate and it lets people visit our parks," said Lake Orion Village Manager Paul Zelenak. "(Dinneweth) is on top of it - she's had a meeting with township village, fire, police and our staff is helping work out the logistics. She's been conscious of changes that were necessary and she is helping the event grow. She appears to have a good handle on what people here want to do."

The event is August 25 and 26 with McLaren Cancer Institute as their title sponsor. For more information call 248-693-4986 or visit dragononthelake.com

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