TAVARES — With its 1,000 freshwater lakes and river, Lake County is well known for its aquatic activities, but perhaps no other event brings the community together quite like the Fourth Annual Florida Choice Bank’s Central Florida Dragon Boat Festival on Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20.
The festival at Wooton Park, located in downtown Tavares at 200 S. Rockingham Ave., brings thousands of spectators and participants for an evening of entertainment on May 19 beginning at 6:30 p.m. and a day of dragon boat racing and festive fare on May 20 beginning at 10 a.m.
According to the Tavares Chamber of Commerce, more than 20 teams have already signed up to compete, and many are practicing every day on Lake Dora. Teams consist of 20 to 24 paddlers working in unison to propel a 40-foot dragon boat. Team members are provided equipment, training, a team tent and awards. In addition, teams are provided access to all festival activities.
Festival organizers are calling upon local businesses and organizations to sponsor teams in the event. For information about the festival or to sponsor a team, call the City of Tavares at (352) 742-6319 or the Tavares Chamber of Commerce at (352) 343-2531.
Friday evening is the commencement of the Central Florida Dragon Boat Festival. The opening ceremony for Saturday’s races features a symbolic awakening of the dragons, Chinese acrobats, martial arts demonstrations, live music and a variety of food.
Saturday is race day as teams prepare to conquer the 500-meter course. Four teams will race per heat, with a new race beginning every few minutes. Teams qualify for positioning in a bracket system to determine the best-performing teams. The top teams will compete in a dramatic final heat to determine the winner, which receives a gold medal at the conclusion of the festival that evening.
While races run throughout the day, spectators and participants can enjoy live music, more martial arts demonstrations and other activities. The festival provides an opportunity for cultural exchange as various Central Florida Chinese organizations are highlighted through vendor displays and entertainment. The event was created by the Tavares Rotary Club through its charitable pursuits to provide college scholarship funds to Lake County students.