Linda Dyer, Dragonheart Vermont founder, steers the Vermont Sisters BCS team at the Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival.

Paddling with Heart: Locals Participate in the 12th Annual Dragon Boat Festival

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Thursday August 03, 2017

“Ten years ago, I watched the Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival from the shore; I have been in a boat ever since!” So says Phyllis Bartling, South Burlington resident and captain of her dragon boat racing team, Baystate Support Oars. It is that type of enthusiasm, commitment, and spirit which is on display this weekend, August 5 and 6, at the 12th annual Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival to benefit Camp Ta-Kum-Ta and Dragonheart Vermont. Over its 11 years, the festival has raised 1.86 million dollars for Vermont cancer-related programs.

The event, held at Burlington’s Waterfront Park, is free and open to the public with entertainment, food, prize drawings, and raffles. Saturday afternoon, August 5, features nine breast cancer survivor teams from all over the United States and Canada plus the local Dragonheart Vermont Sisters teams, celebrating life and racing in a special 500-meter event.

Sunday, August 6, features 45 community and ten breast cancer survivor teams competing, which totals well over 1,000 paddlers, as each team is comprised of 20 paddlers and a drummer. Teams race in a full sprint, head to head, in 41-foot long dragon boats over a 200-meter course. The races start at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 4 p.m. with the presentation of the Champ Cup to crown the 2017 champions.

South Burlington teams racing for fun and fundraising are The PC Paddlers from PC Construction, The Community Bank Hakuna Ma TATAS, and the Allscripts Rowdy Paddlers.

In addition, Linda Dyer, Dragonheart Vermont founder, hails from South Burlington. She says, “Our Dragonheart organization is dedicated to supporting cancer survivors in our Vermont community. Our Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival is the perfect way to connect our community members in a fun and health-giving activity like dragon boating. It also inspires people to work together to raise money to help others in need. In 2009 and 2010, the Festival helped raise funds to build an Activities Cabin for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, a Vermont camp for children with cancer. Now in 2017, we will again lend a helping hand. This time, the money raised from the festival will help to build the camp’s outdoor dining pavilion. It’s exciting.”

Organizers add that Saturday’s festivities culminate with a Sunset Dragonfest Dance Party, with musical guests The X-Rays, hosted by Dragonheart Vermont from 5:30 to 9 p.m. in the Woodchuck Hard Cider Garden at Waterfront Park. The dance party is a $5 ticketed event, but free for all racers with their festival t-shirt. Proceeds benefit Dragonheart Vermont and Camp Ta-Kum-Ta.

Bartling, whose team, Baystate Support Oars, has been the top fundraiser for the past two years, adds, “All year I look forward to this one day of fun, camaraderie, love, competition, and yes, sweat! The spirit and excitement are infectious. The cause is sobering. And many of the Dragonheart team members are now my personal heroes. Where else can you find all that?” She adds, “Taking part in the Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival is one way I can help to support cancer survivors. We are so proud of the funds we raised to support cancer survivors in our community.”

For more information, visit the festival website at