BEMIDJI -- After 37 total races, several spurts of rain and a unforgettable rainbow backdrop to close out the day, the Cedar River Gang rowed its way to gold in the Seventh Annual Dragon Boat Festival at the lakefront.
"It is really a good feeling," Cedar River Gang team captain John Gilliland said.
"We worked hard to beat some really good teams. Just to beat up on someone that is a weaker team doesn't do it, but when you are taking on teams that are better than you and you do well that's what makes you feel good."
The Iowa-based team came into the Gold Division facing some stiff opponents, including the Hydroheads who had the fasted time on the day with a time just under two minutes and 15 seconds.
Though impressive, the Hydrohead's time did not mean anything in the final race as the Cedar River Gang inched them out by nearly a second and a half with a final time of 2:17.70, leading the team to its second victory, the first of which came in 2009.
The team hit its peak at the perfect time, improving on their time after each race, with times of 2:21.67 in the first heat, and 2:18.80 in the second.
"The first race we got to get the jitters out and make some corrections," Gilliland said. "The second race went very well. We faced the River City Dragons and barely nipped them. That gives you a sense of confidence."
Nipped may be an understatement. The team edged out the River City Dragons by four-tenths of a second beating them 2:18.84 to 2:18.80, getting them into the final.
Gilliland said the entire day was a lot of fun as his teammates were able to do some shopping in-between races, soaking up the great atmosphere that he said has kept the team coming back year after year.
Most of the team's rowers come from Cedar Rapids, Iowa and the surrounding areas while others are from as close as Duluth.
Gilliland and his teammates were exhausted at the finish but he said the team will soak in the victory before looking ahead to next year.
"That was a very tough race," Gilliland said. "It was not a bad race but there are still things to improve."
1. Cedar River Gang
2. HydraHeads, Headwaters Canoe and Kayak
3. River City Dragons, Winnipeg
4. Prostate Paddlers, Winnipeg
1. Beaver Fever, Bemidji State University
2. The Rowin' Oaks, Oak Hills Christian College
3. Custom Coyote, Coyote 102.5 KKWB
4. Captain Zetah and the Dynamic Paddlers, Zetah Construction
1. Point O' Salers, North Country Business Products
2. Rowtarians, Bemidji Rotary
3. Wesloh Five-O, Wesloh Family
4. Lakeland Loveboat, Lakeland Public TV
Banccaneers, Security BankUSA
Lion's Pride, Fosston-Lengby Lions
Pine Tree Paddlers, Dick's Plumbing & Heating of Bemidji, Inc.
The Rowin' Oaks, Oak Hills Christian College
NorthStars, REM North Star
Paul Bunyan Broadcasting Radio Flyers, Paul Bunyan Broadcasting
First Nautical Bank, First National Bank Bemidji
Best Team Name
Pachamama Paddlers, Indigenous Environmental Network
Best Team Appearance
Lincoln Honor Rowl, Lincoln Elementary
Best Team Village
Wesloh Five-O, Wesloh Family