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Synchronized Surging

Dragon on the Lake goes swimmingly

August 28, 2013 - Lake Orion's Fifth Annual Dragon on the Lake festival was a rousing success by any standard.

Thousands of people strolled through downtown or enjoyed the dragon boat races, artists' works, the '80s party, road race and the myriad of other events all weekend.

Orion art Center Director Lauren Dinnewith said the event went very well, in large part due to the hundreds of volunteers.

"We have the most awesome group of volunteers. There were groups from our churches, Knights of Columbus, Crossroads for Youth, our schools and thousands of volunteers. It really speaks to the type of community we have," she said.

All parts of the festival went well, she said. Visitors from outside of the community spoke highly of it and the event has truly become the area's top festival.

"We are very pleased," Dinnewith said. "The art fair was a good first year addition and is something we can build on. The artists downtown and the chalk art was a nice mix."

There were 50 artists through downtown offering their works. The streets were filled with vendors of all kinds and businesses in the downtown enjoyed the surge of customers.

Dinnewith said there were some things that were tweaked from last year and she said the same could be expected for next year's Dragon on The Lake festival.

"This was the best layout to date but we will tweak it for next year, I'm sure. This is only our fifth year."

Dinnewith said one of the ways the festival was made even more affordable was through the community sponsors who gave money, or services at low cost.

Bomber dynasty

Let's not forget that Dragon on The Lake is named for the dragon boat races that take place on Lake Orion.

There were 30 teams this year and each team consisted of 20 racers along with five or so alternates. Hundreds of racers as well as fans packed Green's Park to watch the fun.

In addition to the racers the boats included someone seated at the front of the long boats beating a drum to keep the rowers in time, or close to it. Many of the racers and drummers wore unusual attire, including angels, bakers, dragons and some that were inexplicable.

All of the races were exciting and some included photo finishes.

The Orion Town-SHIP boat won the closest race of the competition, edging Buffalo Wild Wings by .07 of a second.

The fans and racers saw the Island Bombers win the races for the third consecutive year. Team spokesman Hank DeSamper said there were nine new additions to this year's team..

"We really pulled it together and kept the dragon in Lake Orion," he said.

The company that brought the $25,000-apiece boats to Lake Orion and handled all of the management and coordination of races, timing and course-setting was called Great White North and they are from Toronto.

The company conducts races in communities all over Canada and the United States.

The announcer for the races was Jerry Orum, who lives in Windsor and often travels with Great White North to handle announcing and crowd entertainment.

Orum said he is happy to see Lake Orion's festival grow and become a great community event that not only benefits the area but also raises money for good causes.

Orum said dragon boat races began in Canada 25 years ago by a doctor in British Colombia who supported women exercising and rowing to help with their recoveries. Most doctors did not believe in exercising for those with breast cancer. The effort grew to become a mission to help raise money to fight breast cancer.

Orum founded an organization called International Dragon Boat Races for the Cure.

Now, he said, thousands of breast cancer survivors are huge supporters of the dragon boat events and often travel to compete in festivals around the world.

Five years ago, Orum recalled, Lake Orion's Dragon on the Lake, was small but he recognized there were some great opportunities to make the festival into a great community-wide event.

"The organizers here really believed in what they were trying to do. They had that vision that things could grow," Orum said.

The first year there were 16 boats and now there are 30 this year. They are talking about a little more growth next year.

Orum has seen dragon boat races all over Canada and the U.S. and said Lake Orion's venue and community is one of the nicest in the country. In Canada, the events are bigger and the sport is more well-known, Orum said.

Orum said he loves the Lake Orion festival

"We've been to Lafayette, Louisiana and Lexington, Kentucky, and this compares maybe a little bit better than those."

Former Leader Editor Dan Shriner will cover Wildcat football this season.
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