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Fifth annual Rowan Chamber Dragon Boat Festival the biggest and best yet

By Andie Foley
andie.foley@salisburypost.com

The surface of High Rock Lake was abuzz with activity Saturday as groups from across the Carolinas competed for top spot in the Rowan Chamber Dragon Boat Festival.

The fifth annual event has offered companies, community groups and associations the chance to take to the water in teams of 21. With 20 paddlers and one drummer, the groups paddled 42-foot-long “dragon boats” down a 300-meter course toward victory.

PanAm Dragon Boat provided the boats, life vests and a steer person. The rest was up to the competitors.

Along the course, many shared laughter, most shared sweat, and a few shared tears.

These few included members from team “The Cut Ups,” a group that’s been participating since the races began five years ago.

This year, the group of Rowan-Senior Games participants was short member: Lynn Rogers, who participated all four years prior, passed away unexpectedly in late June.

She was survived by husband Kendal Rogers and twin sister Ann Barkley, both of whom were rowing during Saturday’s race.

Kendal and Barkley, along with their team members, wore shirts bearing Lynn’s name. They were paddling “Lynn Strong,” according to team captain Crystal Pierce.

“We didn’t remove her from our roster,” said Pierce. “In the event that we are fortunate enough to medal this year, she’s getting a medal with us.”

By noon on Saturday, the Cut Ups were well on their way to doing just that. Pierce said they beat their winning time last year during this year’s first round on the water.

The team went on to place second in the Community B Division Minor Final.

Other teams had their own unique and touching stories. There was an all-female team of breast cancer survivors. A Rowan-Cabarrus Community College team drafted Chamber board president Dr. Janet Spriggs last minute to drum, and a team of employees and family members from the VA hospital.

The VA team featured a veteran who had lost his sight and who received his care at the facility.

Teresa Dakins, chairwoman for the event, said this year was the largest yet as far as teams.

It was also larger as far as vendors. This year, food and beverage vendors were joined by community agencies: Salisbury Pride and Partners in Learning, to name a few.

She said she felt confident that the event would only continue to grow, especially in light of this year’s new dragon boat provider, PanAm.

“When each team goes through its practice, the steer person that they have is just much more detailed,” she said. “I think that’s given the teams a lot more confidence, especially when they’ve never paddled before.”

According to Chamber president Elaine Spalding, proceeds from the event benefit the Chamber’s small business programs and services.

Gary Blabon, director of operations with Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, said that the event brings great awareness to the eastern part of the county.

Novant has been the race’s title sponsor for all five years, and Blabon said that was for good reason.

“It goes along with our mission statement of improving the health of our communities one person at a time,” he said. “We feel this is just a great way, not only for team building, but to promote health and wellness within our community.”

North Carolina Representative Harry Warren, who represents Rowan County in the 77th district, said the event offered a great opportunity for participating organizations to network and “get to know one another.”

“It’s also a great opportunity for folks to meet the people that represent them in different offices and, politics aside, just get to know people,” he said.

As an elected official, he was joined by members of the Salisbury City Council and the Rowan Board of Commissioners: council member Tamara Sheffield, Mayor Pro Tem David Post, and Commissioner Chairman Greg Edds.

United States Representative Ted Budd, R-13, also came out to view the festivities.

“This is a great place to meet people,” said Budd, “Because we travel so much, things like this give us a chance to see different sides of the community that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise known.”

Overall winners this year were:

  • First place: Charlotte Fury with a time of 1:16.63
  • Second place: Paddle Me Again with 1:17.64
  • Third place: F&M Strokes of Genius with 1:19.17
  • Fourth place: Organized Chaos Ladies — The XX Factor with 1:20.63.

Novant Health also presented Rowan County with its Corporate Wellness Cup, a workplace wellness award.

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