Dragon Boat, the water sport where long boats are propelled by teams of rowers, will return to Myrtle Beach this year in an event expected to draw 60 teams and 5,000 festival attendees.
The ninth annual Dragon Boat Festival will be held on April 29 by Ground Zero, a nonprofit Christian youth group, in The Market Common. In addition to rowers, food vendors and activities will be set up near the water at Grand Park.
Scott Payseur of Ground Zero said now is the time to sign up for those interested in participating. He said 59 teams are currently registered, but many signed up near the event time last year. Ten to 15 percent of the current teams are expected to drop out, and Payseur said his group is hoping for more participants, who comprise the main fundraising source for his group.
Those interested can sign up at mygroundzero.com or call 843-945-9440. Teams consist of a captain and 21 paddlers and are responsible for raising the $200 entry fee. Spectators attend the festival for free, and kids can spend all day in the “family-fun zone” for $10 per child.
Payseur said teams sign up “because it’s competitive, it can be because they like to stay in shape [or] it can be because they’re looking for something different to do with their buddies and they could care less where they place.”
Event organizers provide boats, paddles, life jackets and a professional steering team member so that unfamiliar riders stay on course, Payseur said. Each team is given an hour to practice in the week leading up to the event.
Ground Zero usually profits about $100,000 from the event, which is used to run its programs. The group holds concerts, brings speakers and hosts other events to support its mission of teen outreach and is trying to establish weekly events this year.
The Dragon Boat Festival’s special event request will come before city council Tuesday. But council recently has been skeptical of some highly attended events.
The Highland Games, another popular sporting competition that brought thousands to The Market Common for its inaugural event last year, had its event permit briefly delayed last year after council members expressed concern about attendees parking in the grass along major roadways.
Payseur said there should be adequate parking for the Dragon Boat Festival, and that he plans on working with the city to avoid illegal parking this year.
“There is typically plenty of parking down there, it’s just all of us, by human nature, want to get the closest spot,” Payseur said. “So we tend to make our own spot sometimes.”