Recap: here’s what you missed during Birmingham’s first Dragon Boat Race and Festival at East Lake Park 

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Preparing to race. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

Dragon boats fired up East Lake Park on Saturday, August 24 during Birmingham’s first-ever Dragon Boat Race and Festival benefiting Mitchell’s Place. Here’s what went on during this fiery event.

Awareness for a Great Cause

Mayor Woodfin with Mitchell’s Place Founders Allen and Nancy and Meisler. Photo via Mitchell’s Place

Mitchell’s Place is an inclusive accredited preschool and outpatient clinic that specializes in improving the lives of children (and their families) affected by autism and other developmental disabilities. 

All proceeds from the Dragon Boat Race and Festival will directly benefit the children, families and faculty at Mitchell’s Place.

Energetic Races and Team Spirit

Get ready to rumble! Photo via Mitchell’s Place

As guests arrived at East Lake Park for the Dragon Boat Festival, they were welcomed by the sound of drums beating in the distance—a sound that let them know they were in for something exciting. 

The main attraction at the festival was, of course, the dragon boat races. There were a total of 15 sponsored teams that signed up to compete in the race—an amazing turnout! 

Look at that dragon tail! Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

There were some pretty clever team names, too, such as:  

  • Mitchell’s Place: Dragon Our Tail
  • Encompass Health: Landlubber Snubbers
  • Vulcan Materials: Vulcan’s Vikings
  • John and Sheryl Kimberling: Rowmen Noodles

Rowmen Noodles actually won the prize for best name. I can totally understand why, can you?

Paddling hard for the win. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

If you aren’t in the know about dragon boats, here is some info to soak up. 

  • Dragon boats are 46-foot long.
  • Each dragon boat boasts colorful scales on each side with a dragon head and tail on opposing ends. 
  • Each team is made up of 20 paddlers and one costumed drummer. 

Why a drummer? The drummer’s core responsibility is to help lead paddlers to the finish line using rhythmic drum beats that indicate the speed and synchrocity of the paddlers’ strokes.

Vulcan’s Vikings prepare for racing battle.  Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

They also look pretty snazzy in their costumes, and totally excite the crowd watching from the sidelines. 

Paddle Trophy Winners

What really impressed me was how incredibly fast the teams were. It was obvious they had practiced hard to become masters of the paddles and win the competition. 

Which teams had the ferocious paddling skills to glide into the winners circle? Here are the top five:

  1. Brasfield & Gorrie – Row Hard or Row Home
  2. Iron Tribe Fitness – Paddles of Fury
  3. Bell Media – Scott’s Tots
  4. UAB & UAB Neurology – The Strokes
  5. Mitchell’s Place – Dragon Our Tails

“Brasfield & Gorrie places a high priority on giving back to the communities where we live, work and play. We were honored to sponsor the inaugural Dragon Boat Festival and were excited to participate in the race. We know that our support of this event will benefit the many children and families who attend Mitchell’s Place.”

Ginny Willings, Community Relations Coordinator, Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC.

Yummy Food and Drinks

Nom nom. Photo via Patience Itson for Bham Now

No festival is complete without food, am I right? After all that paddling, those taking part in the dragon boat races had to be famished, too!

Luckily, there were plenty of food trucks serving up tasty choices. Here’s a look at some of the food vendors:

  • Back Forty Beer Company
  • Bham Budweiser
  • Cookie Destiny
  • Chuy’s
  • Full Moon BBQ
  • Hamburger Heaven
  • Miss Dots
  • Pazzo Big Slice
  • Royal Cup Coffee
  • Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe

With a gaggle of kids with me, we opted for the most child-friendly food option––pizza from Pazzo Big Slice. It was delicious and the kids totally devoured it!

Fun Kid-Friendly Activities

How fast can you climb? Photo via Patience Itson for Bham Now

Mitchell’s Place knows that kids need activities to keep them entertained. So the festival was filled with kid-friendly things to do, such as:

  • Bubbles
  • Carnival games
  • Rock climbing wall (donated by Mountain High Outfitters)
  • Face painting
Hula for the win! Photo via Patience Itson for Bham Now

One of my favorite parts of the Kids Zone was the hula hoops. Okay, so I may be a stellar hooper, but it was the first time I got to see my daughter finally master the skill. 

I know this is thanks to the time she has spent at Mitchell’s Place in their outpatient occupational therapy program. The program has helped improve her body strength and coordination—two things you have to have to have to keep that colorful hoop swinging. 

Seeing this proves that Mitchell’s Place can do some amazing things for so many children in Birmingham.

Stay Tuned

The race is on! Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

Did you miss the Dragon Boat Race and Festival? No worries. This exciting event will be back next year! So stayed tuned for more fiery dragon-inspired fun in 2020. For more information about Mitchell’s Place, click here

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Patience Itson
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