Despite weather that was hotter than a dragon’s breath, Saturday proved to be a fun, festive day on Solomons Island.
The fourth annual Solomons Dragon Boat Festival gave residents and visitors a day at the races as many watched from the town’s boardwalk as 18 crews competed on the Patuxent River for a shot at the championship.
While only one team emerged as the champ, there were no losers as each crew aided Southern Maryland Community Resources Inc. in raising funds for their programs.
“It’s great to see people get happy,” said Southern Maryland Community Resources Executive Director Bonnie Elward, who served as chair for the Dragon Boat Festival. “It’s heartwarming to see them raise money that supports our programs for the developmentally disabled.”
There were 18 races, each one with three boats participating. The 40-foot vessels are manned by 16 paddlers, a drummer and a steer person.
In the final race, the three teams facing each other for the 2019 championship were Drag’n Butt, a crew comprised of employees of AMEWAS Inc., an aviation defense contractor; the O’Brien [Realty] River Rats and the Flying Water Dragons, which was sponsored by another defense contractor, Avian.
Drag’n Butt won the race with a time of 1 minute, 13.12 seconds while O’Brien was close behind in second with a time of 1:13.59. The Flying Water Dragons was third in 1:15.02.
“It was a blast,” said Drag’n Butt crew member Peter Quinn of Solomons. “It was a good time.”
“It’s always fun,” said Joel Sewell, another Drag’n Butt crewman who had previously participated in three races for the company. “It’s for a great cause, and it provides great team-building for us.”
Garbed as a pirate, Corey Pettit of the KBR’s Pirates of the Patuxent personally presented Elward with the crew’s “booty,” that is the money they raised for SMCR.
“We’ve been pirates every year,” said Pettit, whose employer is an engineering consultant. “This is like a big team morale thing for us every year.”
Other teams participating in the race included Solomons S’Oars, which tied KBR’s Pirates in the 17th race — the minor final — with a time of 1:21.56. Coming in third in the penultimate race was The Centurions, who clocked 1:22.69.
Churches sponsoring teams were St. Aloysius and Patuxent Presbyterian (Power Paddlers). Other participating teams were the Smartronix Geek Squad, 2018 champion Kingfishers, presenting sponsor Cedar Point Castaways, the Personalized Therapy Tiki Tribe, the Water Warriors, Leadership Southern Maryland and Tidewater Dental. The races were the main component of the festival.
On Aug. 11, the event organizers hosted a VIP reception.
On Friday evening, the opening ceremonies in front of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church featured the “dotting of the eye” ritual.
Kathryn Rivers served as the fest’s “teams coordinator” and an army of volunteers was mobilized to keep the festival moving.
Each boat cost participating entities $2,000, and crew members were encouraged to fundraise prior to the race. A team theme — with crew member costumes and tent decorations—was also stipulated in the event’s rules.
Several vendors sold food and other merchandise during the event.
Buses from The Arc Southern Maryland shuttled attendees parking several blocks north to the waterfront during Saturday’s races.
Elward told The Calvert Recorder that the fifth annual Dragon Boat festival is being planned for the third Saturday of August in 2020.