August 20, 2014 - By Katie Winkler
Joe Zimmer, Chris Barnett, Alaina Campbell and Roberto Vecchi fight for the Golden Paddle. (click for larger version)
Review Staff Writer
On Sunday, thirty Dragon Boat teams will go head-to-head to battle it out for the coveted Dragon Trophy and try to out row defending champions Island Bombers.
For the Orion Area Chamber of Commerce, Orion Township and Blessings in a Backpack, winning the overall prize is not the goal. The goal is to win amongst the three teams and claim the golden paddle.
The good-natured rivalry between township and the chamber began last year during the second heat of the boat races with, according to Roberto Vecchi of Buffalo Wild Wings (who sponsors the Blessings boat), an illegal start by the township boat.
According to Vecchi, the two other boats were stopped while township boat was coasting through the starting line when the starting gun shot.
At the end of the race, a photo-finish showed the township boat won by .006 of a second.
Vecchi said that close finish has turned into about a 10 boat difference in township supervisor Chris Barnett's mind .
"He thinks they crushed the Chamber boat last year," Vecchi said. "About a minute after the race was over last year, Barnett and I started going at it. It's quite heated."
Barnett backs up the "Orion Town-SHIP boat" by saying they had a clean start and the chamber boat members had a hard time taking the loss.
"You know when you have young children, you teach them to lose with dignity?" Barnett said. "We won fair and square by at least three boat lengths. We could see them in our rear view mirror. I actually yelled to our team to dig their paddles in the water to slow ourselves down. Orion Township is about everyone having a good time and a really close, competitive race."
Blessings in a Backpack came into the mix when, "We realized that there were three different boats and there were chamber board members in all of them," said Chamber director Alaina Campbell.
From then on, the friendly "trash-talking" began between Barnett, Vecchi and Campbell began.
In the last few weeks, Blessings in a Backpack has picked up Lake Orion Culver's as a sponsor for the boat races.
The two organizations combined have been raising money for Blessings and preparing to destroy the chamber and township boats.
Barnett said he isn't too concerned about the Blessings/Culver's boat,
"Culver's Backpack Attack," is at a disadvantage because "they have all that custard in them," he said.
While team members may have bellies full of creamy treats, rumor has it that Blessings has been recruiting members from the Cross Fit gym to join their boat.
"We are staffing our boat with chamber members and the township with township members," Vecchi said. "The backpack boat has gone to Cross fit and has enlisted their entire gym to sit on their boat."
To make sure all team members are qualified for the Dragon Boat races, Barnett jokingly suggested that rowers should submit to "random drug testing."
We will ask three questions of everyone on the township, chamber and blessings boat and if they can't answer for the organization they are rowing for, they should not be able to row."
Participants on three boats, "Taking Care of Business," "Orion-TownSHIP," and "Culver's Backpack Attack," will have the golden paddle in their sights.
The Golden Paddle was created by Campbell and will be handed to the winning team out of the three teams as part of their friendly competition.
According to Barnett, "The golden paddle is the most coveted award in all paddling sports."
"I can't wait to get my hands on this paddle," Joe Zimmer, owner of Culver's, said.
The Dragon on the Lake planning committee has set up the first and second heats so that the three boats can compete side-by-side, until the third heat where they will be placed depending on their times.
"This is a great community event. The whole event is amazing. We are just taking a little piece of it and having fun with it," Barnett said. "It will all be decided out here in a very short few days."