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Dragon boat races slated for ‘The Cove’

Knoxville’s sixth-annual Drag-on Boat races will be hosted in a new spot this year: The Cove at Concord Park.

“This will be the sixth year in Knoxville, and we’ve historically done it down at Volunteer Landing, which is a beautiful setting,” said Wendy Witsoe, founder of the Dragon Boat races in Knoxville.

“But doing it now in the Cove, we think, will be a great venue because of the park-like setting that our teams and other cities really like. It allows teams to really spread out on the grass, there’s more shade and they can invite co-workers.

“Down at Volunteer Landing, we were landlocked and there was only so much room. Last year we had 25 teams; this year we have 44. There’s just no way we could have fit 44 teams on the Landing and we still have room to grow at the Cove,” Witsoe added.

The races will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, June 28.

“Racing will be going on all day because we have three boats racing at a time,” Witsoe said. Teams race 250 meters, which can take teams up to a-minute-and-20 to [a-minute-and-]30 seconds to complete.

“Every team will race once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and then the fastest 12 teams will race in the championship heats in the afternoon,” Witsoe added.

Dragon boat racing pits community and corporate teams against each other as they race in 41-foot canoes.

“The dragon boats are 41-foot long canoe-like boats … It takes 20 paddlers in 10 rows of two and they have a drummer at the front to keep the rhythm of the stroke and a person who steers in the back,” Witsoe said

“Corporations do it a lot for team-building and community teams do it for the fun,” she added.

The races benefit Knox Area Rescue Ministries.

“Knox Area Rescue Ministries really helps people that, I think, a large part of the population has a skewed viewpoint of. People that aren’t engaged there or don’t know about homelessness really don’t [understand] what feeds into it,” Witsoe said.

“Knox Area Rescue opens their doors every day to these people, and whether they come in and get a meal and leave again, they know those doors are always going to be open,” she added.

“If KARM wasn’t there to have their doors open … then we would have a much bigger problem and these people wouldn’t have an opportunity.”

Money is raised for KARM through pledges: after signing up to race, each team member is asked to raise pledges. All money from the pledges is donated to KARM.

“So they ask friends and family, ‘Hey, I’m doing this, can you pledge $5 or sponsor me for ten?’” Witsoe said.

“While the pledges are not mandatory, we do ask that they do that and most of them do. Last year, we raised $46,000 and we would like to double that,” she added.

Witsoe will be running a shuttle service from Concord Park near Lakeside Tavern from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The event also will feature live music by Dishwater Blonde and Mission Possible, performances by the Organization for Chinese/-Chinese-Americans and a “Children’s Fun Zone” with inflatables, games and an Asian culture center.

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