Dragon boats fired up for eighth annual festival

By Steve Palisin


Ride along in a Dragon Boat race

Ride along with team "Girls on Fire" during the 2015 Ground Zero Dragon Boat Race held at Market Commons in Myrtle Beach.
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Ride along with team "Girls on Fire" during the 2015 Ground Zero Dragon Boat Race held at Market Commons in Myrtle Beach.

The fire breathing in this annual initiative gets only more fervent every year as a rite of spring for Myrtle Beach.

Ground Zero of Myrtle Beach, a ministry to teens, will set sail with its eighth annual Dragon Boat Festival fundraiser all day Saturday, in the city’s Grand Park, on Farrow Parkway, across from The Market Common.

Although the celebration is 8 a.m.-5 p.m., passers-by of the park’s lake might see teams practicing in their 40-foot-long dragon boats this week, to polish their groove and refine their rhythm for paddling. Each crew comprises 20 paddlers and a drummer at the bow.

Sara Horner, Ground Zero’s development director, talked about the fervor that fuels this “completely family friendly” festival – her fourth time in helping coordinate – and all the community spirit and support among its key ingredients.

Question | How many teams will put in boats to paddle for the 2016 fest?

Answer | We’ll end up with around 50.

Q. | How soon do teams sign up for this festival each year?

A. | We’ll open registration for the 2017 event on the day of the festival this year. Also, for people who want to consider forming a team for next year, they can come and see how it all works, and register for next year right on the spot.

Q. | How vast are the groups who enter, whether by age group, profession, or other shared interest or background?

A. | Every year, we have such diversity among our participants. This year, we have a boat that’s mostly with Parent-Teacher Association members from one of the local elementary schools. We’ll have boats with all middle school or high school students. We have local medical offices that will put a team together with their staff. ... There’s a few youth groups that form teams, and we usually have a couple of sports teams. ... We have one team with someone who’s the youngest age allowed to compete in the festival, a team with an 11-year-old and a 72-year-old, and every decade in between is represented – They’re coming down from North Carolina to participate.

Q. | From how far does this festival draw dragon boaters?

A. | Generally, the furthest anyone drives for a whole team is about two hours, but we have a team that’s going to have people from Indiana, so they’ll end up driving about 14 hours.

Q. | In past years, seeing teams practice in the week leading up to each festival has been an attraction itself, especially for folks who live nearby in Seagate Village or reside or patronize businesses across The Market Common. What times will paddlers be stirring ripples across Grand Park’s lake?

A. | We’ll be out there every day of the week, from about 4:30 to 8 p.m.

Q. | For anyone watching teams at work on the water, what common denominator is found in every group?

A. | A genuine enthusiasm. There are teams that at first, roll in to practice, and some members might look like they don’t want to be there, but by the time they come off the water, at the end of practice, everyone comes out happy and enthusiastic for the festival.

Q. | In what other ways do teams distinguish themselves and make their own mark to stand out as a unit?

A. | Every team has their own color T-shirt. We see teams accessorize their team color with wristbands, hats and bandannas. We’ve some go as far as adding face paint. ...

Also, this year, we’ll give an award to the team with the best battle cry, with something they chant, or shout at the end of their race. ... Also, we’ll have a drummer costume competition, because each team has a drummer who keeps a beat. ... During the midday break, we’ll have some local on-air celebrities who will judge the costumes. The drummers will go out on stage and walk a runway. We’ll also have a people’s choice award, so everyone is invited to vote for their favorite drummer.

Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.

If you go

WHAT: Eighth annual Dragon Boat Festival

BENEFITING: Ground Zero of Myrtle Beach, ministry to teens

WHEN: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Myrtle Beach’s Grand Park, on Farrow Parkway, across from The Market Common.

HOW MUCH: Free to see.

INFORMATION: 843-945-9440, ext. 203; or www.gzdragonboat.com


▪ Children’s fun zone will include inflatable bounce houses, for $10 with all-day pass.

▪ Banana boat rides, $5 each.

▪ Ground Zero’s “Sunday Celebrations” summer concert series, all 7 p.m. and for free, in Myrtle Beach’s Plyler Park – at North Ocean Boulevard and Mr. Joe White Avenue – with Among the Thirsty on June 26, Manafest July 3, JJ Weeks Band July 10, Abandon July 17, 7eventh Time Down July 24, and Remedy Drive July 31.

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