August 27, 2014 - By Meg Peters
Members of the boat racing team, the Island Bombers, thrash into Lake Orion at Green's Park after their fourth consecutive victory. Dan Shriner. (click for larger version)
Review Staff Writer
It just keeps getting bigger and better.
In the last three years, the Dragon on the Lake festival has grown to span 10 blocks in Downtown Lake Orion with this year's culmination at Green's Park even bigger.
A total of 27 teams raced for the pristine Dragon Boat Race championship and more than 100 vendors and artists blocked off the downtown selling unique items and pieces. More than 5,000 people enjoyed various downtown activities the entire weekend, slightly more than last year, according to Police Chief Jerry Narsh.
"This event successfully involves all facets and jewels of the village. By doing so we include something for everyone and thereby increase the attendance," Narsh said. "The Dragon was pleased."
Dragons were everywhere. Darius the Dragon—the authentic Chinese festival dragon— prowled the community as tradition holds, carried by members of the L.A. Dance Team.
Sidewalk chalk contestants etched their favorite dragon themed interpretations on Lake Orion sidewalks and streets, competing for a piece of the $500 grand prize. This year's chalk art challenge winners were Makenzie Lutz for the children's prize (free Orion Art Center classes), Keegan Roback for the teen prize ($75), Eliana Ritt, who won the adult Best in Theme prize of $100, and Kelly Finn who won the Best in Show prize also at $100.
Dragons were all over Lake Orion for the Lighted Boat Parade Friday night, led by the infamous fire-breathing Dragon, scorching the waters. Ten boats participated this year.
Not only dragons, but llama rides, crafts, puppet shows and magic shows took over the downtown. The Xtreme Zone featured live skateboard demos, a rock climbing wall and flight simulators.
Two full days of live entertainment kept the Dragon Pub beer tent flowing with people while the Orion Art Center and Home Depot had kids making crafts all day.
According to Orion Art Center Director Lauren Dinnewith, every moment of Dragon on the Lake 2014 was a raving success.
"The '80's Rockin' Block party really was a highlight> It fits the demographic of Lake Orion," Dinnewith said. The Square Pegz '80s rock band led the Saturday night party as people dressed in retro '80s attire and jammed to the music. "There are so many people who know the '80s songs. It's so refreshing having everyone come together face to face. That's why I do this."
Speaking of face-to-face, two Lake Orion residents' faces came together very closely moments before the Dragon Boat Race opening ceremony Sunday morning. Donna Miller surprised her husband Dennis in her wedding dress and the pair were married to claim the first-ever-wedding-title during Dragon on the Lake.
Of course, there was little surprise when the Island Bombers captured their fourth consecutive dragon boat race championship.
It was a spirited finish in which the Bombers came from behind to catch Culver's Backpack Attack in the final race.
The time in winning race was the Bombers' slowest of their three heats but it was enough.
"We got off to a horrible start," said Hank DeStampet. "It was our worst run of the day."
In that final race, the Bombers just kept coming and coming and edged Culver's by eight-tenths of a second.
Several members of the Island Bombers said they plan to come back next year to defend their title.
Other awards were dished out as well.
The Wonder Bras paddled the fastest for the Breast Cancer Survivor division, taking home the championship.
Stronger Together, the Oakland County YMCA team, won the best drummer award, and the Best Uniform/Costume fit Urassis Dragon-Fueled by Modernistic.
It was a fight for everyone to see.
"I had strangers come up to me all weekend. One woman came from 35 miles away and said they don't do this in my town that's why I came here. I love this community," Dinnewith said.
Orion Art Center members are already plotting for next year's Dragon on the Lake, which attracts people from all over south-east Michigan.
Art center members will meet with the village council and police to tweak future plans and try to increase overall attendance for the benefit of the downtown community.
"I would love to have more dragon boats, I would love to have more lighted boats in the boat parade and more artists in Lakeside Living Art Fair. I want it to be a community festival, not just an art festival, simply because there are so many of the community members involved, and they come from all over," she said.