Dragon boats to race next year

Kalispell will host the inaugural Montana Dragon Boat Festival
next fall on Flathead Lake.

The event, set for Sept. 8, 2012, celebrates the ancient Chinese
sport of racing ornate human-powered watercraft that dates back
more than 2,000 years. The Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau
is organizing the festival that’s expected to attract 3,000
spectators and 600 racers.

Dragon boat racing is among the fastest growing sports in the world
and is conducted in 64 countries, according to event coordinator
Rob Brisendine, who handles group sales for the bureau. Popularity
also is growing in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, and the local
festival is expected to draw visitors from those regions.

Teams of 20 paddlers, a drummer, and a steer person compete against
each other in the colorful 46-foot boats. All ages and skill levels
can participate, making the sport a popular team-building
experience for businesses and organizations, Brisendine said.

Bureau director Diane Medler said the festival “will positively
impact the local economy while utilizing Flathead Lake, one of our
natural wonders, in a responsible manner.” The bureau’s mission is
to promote Kalispell as a year-round travel destination.

The bureau is working with race producer Dynamic Dragon Boat
Racing, which produced the national finals of dragon boat racing
and will provide the infrastructure, including the boats for the
Montana Dragon Boat Festival. 

The races will be staged at Flathead Lake Lodge near Bigfork, with
other events planned in Kalispell during the festival weekend.
Vendor booths promoting Montana-made products and services,
Flathead Lake artwork, musical performances, children’s activities,
and food and beverages will be featured at the races.

The bureau was awarded a Montana Department of Commerce special
events grant to help promote the festival to out-of-area attendees
and race participants.

“The grant will help us reach new customers and bring them to
Kalispell to experience what our destination has to offer,”
Brisendine said.

For information about sponsoring the Montana Dragon Boat Festival,
registering a team or securing a vendor booth, visit
www.montanadragonboat.com or email Brisendine at
Rob@KalispellChamber.com. Join the festival on Facebook at Montana
Dragon Boat Festival. 

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