Dragon Boat Festival sees 600 competitors race for gold

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, July 25, 2023

HIGH ROCK LAKE — Despite the short rain that dampened the morning, the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s Dragon Boat Festival went on as planned Saturday. All 31 boats that entered into the dragon boat races got to race multiple heats on the 300-meter course despite the weather that threatened to delay some of the races.

This year’s Dragon Boat Festival was the ninth version of the annual event that the Chamber of Commerce has been hosting on High Rock Lake since 2014. The event was cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the festival has since been growing enough that it hit its largest ever turnout this year.

“It’s a great way for the community to come together and support one another. Plus it’s a great way to promote physical health,” said Kristen Trexler, who oversees community engagement for Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.

Novant Health was a gold sponsor of the event along with Hotwire Communications and Trinity Oaks of Lutheran Services Carolinas.

All of the boats were manned by 20 paddlers and a drummer from different businesses and communities around Rowan County and the surrounding areas, which made the total number of competitors over 600. Businesses such as New Sarum Brewing, Food Lion and F&M Bank all sponsored the event and put teams on the water. Rowan County Chamber of Commerce President Elaine Spalding said that for local businesses the event was more than simply summer fun, it also provided a good team-building exercise for the companies.

By the end of the races that day, Charlotte Fury took the gold medal in the final race of the day against boat crews Gator Bites (Rhema Transportation and Cardinal Tires), Lion’s Pride (Food Lion) and Strokes of Genius (F&M Bank). Charlotte Fury won with a final time of one minute and 20 seconds.

Spalding estimated that the turnout at the event was over 5,000, spread between spectators and competitors.

Local politicians such as East Spencer Mayor Barbara Mallett, County Commissioner Greg Edds, Salisbury City Council member Tamara Sheffield, Landis Mayor Meredith Smith and Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander along with Sen. Carl Ford also showed up at the event to support the chamber of commerce and enjoy the afternoon.

New Sarum Brewing released a special beer for the event, which Co-Owner Andy Maben described as a rice lager that was brewed with dragonfruit and rested on white oak. Maben said that the beer will be available on draft at the New Sarum taproom and for sale as a canned to-go product until they run out.

According to Elaine Holden, the chair of the chamber of commerce board, proceeds from the event go toward the chamber’s small business initiatives such as the Minority Business Council.

“I think it’s just full circle. You know, where the large and small businesses in our community support us and we then turn around and support them. And to see families out here, to see all walks of life, every segment of our county is here and enjoying a great summer day together,” said Holden.