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Paying tribute: Parade of Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival teams, opening ceremonies slated tonight

Oarsman Steve Modich and drummer Mary Marchel tell members of the Dragon Flyz that it's time to practice Thursday evening. The Dragon Flyz, all members of Beltrami County Health Services, sponsor themselves for the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival races. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival will hold its Parade of Teams and opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the waterfront.

The Parade of Teams offers the chance for dragon boaters to let loose and just enjoy the experience.

But the opening ceremonies pay tribute to the roots of dragon boat races.

Following the entrance of the America and Canadian flags, representatives of Sen Lin Hu, the Chinese Village at Concordia Language Villages, will feature dueling swordsmen and warriors and a bright, long dragon weaving its way along the path from Library Park to the waterfront.

Sen Lin Hu also will present a skit that depicts the history of dragon boat races.

A new addition this year will be a performance from the Duluth, Minn.-based Asian Lion Dance Team. The group will be a Chinese food vendor for the festival, offering authentic Chinese food.

"They're also performing a lion dance Friday night," said co-chair Gary Johnson with the Bemidji Rotary Club. "It's really cool, really energetic."

Prior to opening ceremonies, the annual Parade of Teams will be held, running from Library Park to the waterfront.

Teams' personalities shine through as they are introduced to the crowd of spectators. Colorful T-shirts, banners and humorous props often are part of the spectacle.

The Chicken Ship, a team representing Great River Dentistry (which "caters to chickens") previously has arrived wearing (fake) chickens on their heads; another team, FART (Foundation Alumni Rowing Team), came through the parade with kids doing the under-the-armpit noise thing.

There are 66 teams signed up for the festival this year, a record.

Also, by this evening, many of the teams will have already decorated Team Village, located in Library Park. Team Village is where the dragon boat teams have their "home bases" to relax, eat and regroup before their next races. Teams are encouraged to embellish and enhance their sites. Awards also are given to the most creative, best-decorated team site.

Events will be held rain or shine.

Team meeting

The team managers' meeting, which has been held early Saturday morning in the past, will immediately follow the opening ceremonies at the waterfront.

Johnson said the early-Saturday mornings had been "brutal" for teams that did not practice until noon or so Saturday.

And, since teams are asked to take part in the Parade of Teams, he said team managers should all be available Friday night.

Today's schedule

E10 a.m.-9 p.m. -- Food Court open

ENoon-Midnight -- Dragon's Den 0pen

E6:30 p.m. -- Parade of Teams, followed by Opening Ceremonies

EFollowing ceremonies -- Music by Bob & the Beachcombers in the Dragon's Den.

Saturday's schedule

E8:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. -- Round 1 of races

E10 a.m.-9 p.m. -- Food Court open

ENoon-Midnight -- Dragon's Den open

E1-4 p.m. -- Round 2 of races

E4:45-5:15 p.m. -- Race finals

E5:15 p.m. -- Awards ceremony

EFollowing ceremony -- Music by Billy D and the Crystals in the Dragon's Den