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Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival: Early bird registration to close Sunday

The 2011 Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival Aug. 4-6 will feature new entertainment, games and teams.

The early bird registration for $650 per team, a savings of $100, will run until Sunday, May 1. The regular registration deadline will be early July.

Chairman Gary Johnson said nearly 80 teams competed in 2010 Dragon Boat races and nearly 40 have signed up already for this summer's event.

"To have 40 already this early is really exciting," Johnson said.

He said the number of entries is basically unlimited. The organizers could add more lanes so that instead of four boats racing at a time, the field could be five or more boats.

Teams have signed up from the Bemidji area, out of town and out of country. The number of teams from Winnipeg, Manitoba, increase every year, he said.

A new feature this year will be a partnership with the American Cancer Society. A Cornhole contest - a kind of beanbag toss - will be featured Thursday, Aug. 4, with the proceeds going to cancer research. There are also two teams from Winnipeg made up of all cancer survivors. Because celebrating birthdays is a theme of the American Cancer Society, these teams will invite everyone to a giant party in the Team Village complete with a giant birthday cake, Johnson said.

He said the hope is to open a new racing division to honor cancer survivors.

Prizes for team names, best decorated camps in the Team Village and team theme will again liven up the weekend, Johnson said.

Also new will be the musical entertainment Friday and Saturday nights. The local band Power Play will perform Friday the Dragon's Den and Fuse, a five-piece variety band with what the members call "The Explosive Sound," will play Saturday night.