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Culver's wins inagural Golden Paddle race and gives a paddlin'

August 27, 2014 - Fueled by butter burgers and custard, members of Culver's Backpack Attack dragon boat team swamped dragon boats from Orion Township and the Orion Area Chamber of Commerce to win the coveted Golden Paddle during the Dragon on the Lake festival on Sunday.

The award, which was jokingly called the most coveted award in all of the paddling sports, might not be on par with the Stanley Cup, but it brought plenty of laughs, teasing and raised money for an important charity that helps local children.

There had been plenty of good-natured teasing and trash talking leading up to the races.

Township officials, including Supervisor Chris Barnett, Chamber of Commerce officials, Alaina Campbell and Roberto Vecchi, who owns Buffalo Wild Wings, and Culver's owner Joe Zimmer, agreed to participate in the event with the winning team getting a special award called the Golden Paddle.

The rivalries began last year when the township boat allegedly got an unfair start and won a race against the chamber boat. Vecchi said the good-natured trash talking began immediately.

This year, Culvers got some new team members, which Barnett called "Oxford ringers" because several were members of Cross Fit gym in Oxford.

Barnett and Vecchi said the township and chamber boats were filled with Orion Township employees and chamber members and not "outsiders" like the Culver's boat.

Zimmer just laughed at the allegations and pointed out that many of those in the Culver's Backpack Attack boat live in Orion.

On Sunday, after the Culver's boat won in head-to-head competition and had the best times in its three heats, Zimmer went looking for Barnett to offer some condolences, but couldn't find him.

"He must have gone home to cry," Zimmer said.

Later, Barnett said the event was a lot of fun and proceeds raised went to a great cause for local children. He vowed, though, to seek revenge next year.

Campbell pointed out that there were members of the Orion Area Chamber of Commerce in every boat so everyone benefitted, especially Blessings in a Backpack, which received support in their charitable efforts to provide children in need with food and other important goods.

The Golden Paddle, created by Campbell, was given to Zimmer following the races, who then wanted to show it to Barnett.

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