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Hockey Day is coming to Bemidji; 13th annual event set for winter 2019

Dragon boat teams practice for Saturday competition

The "Crazy Paddling Accounts" of Miller McDonald, Inc. power up during practice on Tuesday evening with oarsman Paul Nelson. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Dawn Jackson planned her summer around this weekend.

Jackson is one of the team members that make up the Crazy Paddling Accountants, a second-year dragon boat team from Miller McDonald.

Jackson was on the team last year, but has since moved to Soldotna, Alaska. She returned to Bemidji Monday night for two weeks, thanks in part to the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.

"It's so much fun," she said.

The Crazy Paddling Accountants team was at the Lake Bemidji waterfront Tuesday as members took part in a second team practice. On Monday, the team practiced for about an hour. On Tuesday, the team again practiced for about 40 minutes.

"It wasn't that hard last night," said first-time participant Melissa Anderson of Bemidji, "but it was a lot harder today."

Dragon boat teams are invited to practice twice in the days leading up to the competition on Saturday. Open to the public, the waterfront has been dotted with spectators since practices began Monday evening. Practices are 5-9 p.m.

"The key to winning is being perfectly in sync," said Charlie Parsons, a Buena Vista Ski Patrol volunteer who was instructing teams prior to their practices. The Ski Patrol volunteers provide steers on the dragon boats.

Wal-Mart this year will field two teams, one of which, Retail Dragons, was among the first teams to practice Tuesday.

"It's just a fun event for everyone," said Terri Murray of Solway, a four-year dragon boater. "It's competitive, yet friendly."

It was also the second practice of the week for the Retail Dragons, who also worked on its teamwork Monday evening.

"It went well," said Danielle Grunz of Bemidji.

Wal-Mart has an unofficial, friendly competition between its two teams, the paddlers said.

The Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival this year will include 68 teams. With 16-20 participants per team, that means about 1,360 people will actively take part in the races.

Aside from the overall winner - which last year was HydraHeads from Headwater Canoe & Kayak - the races also include specialty cups, including the Education Cup, Bankers Cup, Health Cup, Media Cup, Civic Cup and Contractor's Cup.

The Retail Dragons hope that perhaps more retail stores will take part in the dragon boat races in the future so they, too, could compete for a cup.

"The cups seem like that would be fun," Murray said. "If more retail stores would get involved, we could have a special cup, too."

But, in the meantime, team members are looking forward to a nice festival and fun atmosphere.

"It's a great way to get out in the community and represent Wal-Mart," Grunz said.