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With 21 teams competing and plenty of vendors, Dragon Boat Festival looks to make a splash Saturday

SALISBURY — With drums beating and paddles furiously slapping the water, 21 teams will compete in the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s 7th annual Dragon Boat festival Saturday at High Rock Lake.

“It’s a fun, fun day on the lake,” said Elaine Spalding, president of the Rowan Chamber. “We’re looking forward to seeing folks and having a safe outdoor gathering where everybody can social distance and come and enjoy themselves on High Rock Lake.”

The event will be held at The Shrine Club at 6480 Long Ferry Road. The opening ceremony starts at 8:45 a.m. with the first boat races beginning at 9 a.m. There will be a break for lunch before the afternoon races continue, with the event wrapping up around 4 p.m. There is no cost for admission and guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets and make it a fun lakeside party.

The Dragon Boat race is returning this July after being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone is so excited to be back together again since we weren’t able to do the event in 2020,” Spalding said. “We just really want to celebrate how this community came together and how everybody supported our local business community and continues to support our local business community.”

Pan Am Dragon Boat, a company that hosts races across the country, brings the boats, life jackets and other necessary supplies and facilitates the competition. Teams in sleek 20-person boats will race to see who can paddle through the 300-meter course the fastest. Each boat is captained by a sitting drummer, often adorned in an entertaining outfit, who keeps their team on pace.

Although the competition wasn’t held last year, the team captained by Daniel Matangira, owner of Matangira Curbside Recycling, took home first place in 2019. This year, Matangira is event chair for the festival and is also looking to defend his title. He’ll be competing on team Gator Bites — a combination of employees from Matangira Recycling and Cardinal Tire.

Other teams entered in the race include Blazing Paddler’s Bull Ship, Charlotte Fury, Daimler’s Revenge, F&M Strokes of Genius, Trinity Oaks Dragon Slayers and Paddling with Pride. Competitors are mainly composed of local businesses, but a few club teams from outside of Rowan County typically compete every year as well.

Teams will first row in a number of heats before being assigned a division for the competitive rounds. The first, second and third teams in each division will be awarded Olympic-like gold, silver and bronze medals.

While the competition on the water can be fierce, the name of the game is team building.

“Our members in the previous years that we’ve had the Dragon Boat Festival have said that this has been the best team building exercise that they’ve ever done,” Spalding said. “It’s not about muscle strength. It’s really about getting your team in sync. It’s a beautiful thing when all the team members are in sync with their paddles and the boat just lifts up on top of the water and glides along.”

If the races themselves aren’t enough of a draw, there will also be plenty of local food trucks, vendors and live music.

Cold Stone Creamery, Cheerwine, Dolce Italian Ice, Dynamite Dawgs, High Rock Kettle Corn, Morgan Ridge Rail Walk Brewery and Eatery and the Hot Dog Shack are among the food and beverage vendors. The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office is cooking barbecue, and New Sarum Brewing Company will be offering a special rice lager made specifically for this year’s festival.

“This is the first year we’ve had a special beer from New Sarum for the festival,” Spalding said. “I had a chance to taste-test it this past weekend and it is really good. It’s the perfect summertime-on-the-lake kind of beer. It’s really light and refreshing and I think everybody is going to love it.”

The Rowan County Chamber is still looking for a few volunteers to serve as “boat wranglers” on Saturday. Boat wranglers have the job of helping teams in and out of their dragon boats on the High Rock Lake shore. For their assistance, each volunteer receives a free shirt and two beverage tickets.

Parking is available in lots adjacent to the Shrine Club. Parking will be $5 per car and will be organized by the Salisbury High School Booster club to pay for its football team and swimming championship rings. F&M Bank is sponsoring the trolley rides between the parking areas and the Shrine Club property. No pets, coolers or outside food are allowed.

The Dragon Boat Festival’s sponsors include Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, Hotwire Communications, Trinity Senior Services of Rowan, Cheerwine, Duke Energy, F&M Bank, Food Lion and Rowan County Tourism Development, among others. The Post is also a sponsor.

More information about the festival can be found by contacting 704-633-4221 or info@rowanchamber.com, or visiting www.rowanchamberdragonboat.org.

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