Dragon Boat Festival in Racine Wisconsin Circa 2008


This was the official website for the Dragon Boat Festival held in Racine Wisconsin.
Content is from the site's 2007 - 2008 archived pages providing just a glimpse of what this site offered its visitors.

Dragon boat racing combines brightly colored boats adorned with dragon heads, large crews of men and women straining to go even faster, a drummer pounding out a loud beat for each boat, water spraying everywhere from all of the paddles, and a screaming crowd cheering on their favorite boats. It's loud, exciting, and fun!

Midwest College of Oriental Medicine presents:
The Great Midwest Dragon Boat Festival

Date of Event
July 11th & 12th, 2008
Voted #1 event in Racine County!


Rotary Clubs of Racine are sponsoring The Great Midwest Dragon Boat Festival:


  • To raise funds for community projects.
  • To bring an exciting new sport to the Racine area that takes advantage of Racine's location along Lake Michigan.
  • To provide an opportunity for companies and organizations to build unity through teamwork.
  • To enhance the quality of life in Racine with a fun-filled summer festival for all ages.

The three Rotary clubs in Racine (Racine Downtown, Racine West and Founders Rotary) and the Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Racine United Way bring fun and excitement of dragon boat racing to Racine, Wisconsin for our 5th annual festival held July, 2008. Please make plans to join us!

Forms Available

Planning for the 2008 Midwest Dragonboat Festival is underway! All of the necessary paperwork is available to download (.pdf) in our Download Forms section. Here you can find this year's team registration, team roster, and participant waiver forms, as well as the team manger's checklist. Please write info@midwestdragonboatfestival.com with any questions.

2008 Team Registration

Gather your friends and register for the fifth annual Midwest Dragon Boat Festival. Simply download the registration form (.pdf) and follow the instructions to return the completed form with the registration fees.

Racine Dragon Boat Club

If you want more chances to paddle a dragon boat, then the Racine Dragon Boat Club is for you! Based on the popularity of the first festival, the Racine Dragon Boat Club was formed to provide more opportunities to experience the fun of this exciting team sport. For more information, check out the Racine Dragon Boat Club website.

Photo Gallery

Check out all the smiling faces from the Festivals in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 !

The start of an exciting race
The start of an exciting race at the first Great Midwest Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon boat racing traces its history back more than two centuries to ancient China. Today, dragon boat racing events are held throughout the world. The events celebrate its traditional origin while providing a fun and exciting experience for all who participate.

Explore this site to learn more about dragon boat teams, the races, the official rules, and the actualdragon boats , then watch a video from our first festival in 2004.

A dragon boat team
A dragon boat team
Photo courtesy of Great White North Communications


Forming a Team

  • Teams must consist of 25 members: 20 paddlers, 3 alternates, 1 drummer, and 1 steersperson (steersperson will be provided unless team has a qualified steersperson).
  • Minimum of 8 female paddlers is required.
  • To qualify as a student team, there must be at least 11 students age 18 or under paddling in the boat at any one time.
  • Each team gets to participate in a racing how-to seminar, two hours of practice time, and a minimum of two races.
  • Each race is 500 meters.
  • Racing divisions will be determined from the combined times of the morning and afternoon races.
  • The teams will be ranked according to combined times and then grouped into three competitive divisions with an equal number of teams in each division.
  • The three fastest teams in each division will have the opportunity to race each other for their division championship.
  • In addition to crowning the festival champion, there will be recognition of winners in various categories including, friends and family, service clubs, financial institutions, all women, and others if there are sufficient entries to have a category.
  • No equipment is necessary; everything will be supplied. Just bring your team!


The start of a dragon boat race
The start of a dragon boat race

Joining a Team

A dragon boat team can be formed from any group of people: colleagues, neighbors, friends, members of an organization, etc. A group of breast cancer survivors in Vancouver, Canada formed a dragon boat team called Abreast in a Boat, inspiring similar teams in other locations. Be creative in forming a team--it's a great experience for everyone involved.

If you want to become a paddler, but don't have a team to join, we have a waiting list from which we will coordinate a team or fill in other teams. Let us know of your interest by email or call 262-632-0530.


Information and Ideas

  1. A team is comprised of the team manager, a drummer, 20 paddlers, and 3 spares. Each team must include a minimum of eight women per race. A team may provide a "trained steersperson" or one will be provided for the team. Note: Any team that allows a person not listed on the team roster to race in the dragon boats may be disqualified. Persons under 16 years old must have a waiver signed by a parent/guardian to participate.
  2. All paddlers must be capable of paddling 500 meters.
  3. Teams first do exercises to warm up.
  4. The boats are about 42 feet long, 3.5 feet wide, and weigh about 550 pounds.
  5. It will take about 2.3 minutes to complete the course.
  6. Plan for your weight distribution in the boat.
  7. The lead paddlers are the main focal point of the boat; everyone paddles off their lead. The drummer drums off their lead and that is where you get your major timing and speed. The drummer gets the cadence off the lead paddlers. The noise gets the team motivated and the audience excited about the race.
  8. If the team spirit is high and your synchronization is like a well-oiled machine with everyone in sync, you will be a winner.
  9. The start of the race can make or break the race. The idea is to have 8 fast choppy strokes to get your boat up on plane and after 20 strokes, you should have the speed so you can sit back into a mode to pull you through the middle of the race until the end. You should have enough energy to do a short sprint to the finish line.
  10. You will want to practice your "power counts" together. This is where you get your technique and timing down. It's done by keeping in sync with the lead paddlers and counting with them, 1 to 10 all in a strong cadence. You keep counting 1 through 10 faster and faster until you get to a speed that you want to carry though the center of the course leaving some energy for your final sprint. The drummer takes the cadence off the lead paddlers to maintain a smooth stroke in the middle part of the race.
  11. The strokes you take with the paddle can be quick and shallow or longer and deeper. You will want to determine when to use each and for how long depending on your overall strategy. The placement of your inside elbow can make a difference in the power of your stroke as will your hand placement.
  12. Some teams come up with a "team chant" in order to build team spirit.
  13. Some teams sing a song like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" or "The Mickey Mouse Song" to practice their timing together as well as building a team spirit and comradery. Some even put their paddles in three different (drill team) positions as they sing and paddle.
  14. You might want your own flag for the "Parade of Teams."
  15. A team t-shirt builds comradery and if you bring a spare one, you can exchange it with another team member from another group.
  16. You will want to learn a short history of dragon boat racing to answer questions that people might ask you.
  17. You will be using the Hong Kong style boats versus the Taiwan style for their speed in racing.
  18. Some teams use a catchy name for their team name.
  19. Remember the real goal is having fun through paddling together and raising money for our community at the same time.


History of Dragon Boat Racing

The origin of dragon boat racing can be traced to events that happened in southern China over 2,000 years ago. Originally, boats adorned with dragon heads were part of a fertility rite as a way to encourage plentiful rains and a good harvest.

Dragon boats

Photo courtesy of Colorado Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon boat racing within the context of a festival became much more important in Chinese culture with the tragic events surrounding Qu Yuan (pronounced Chu Yuan) around 277 B.C. Qu was a senior minister, diplomat, and poet in the Ch'u feudal kingdom. As a man of integrity and wisdom, he gave truthful advice to the king, advice that angered his political rivals. These rivals persuaded the king to banish Qu Yuan. Despondent over his exile and the subsequent decline of the government, Qu put stones in his pocket and drowned himself in the Mi Lo river. When local fishermen raced out to rescue him, they beat their drums and splashed with their paddles to scare the fish and water dragons away from Qu Yuan's body. They also threw rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves into the water, hoping that the fish would eat the dumplings and leave the body alone.

A close race in the 2004 festival

A close race in the 2004 festival

To commemorate their beloved Qu Yuan, the people of southern China staged dragon boat races to remember the day when they raced into the river in an attempt to save him. The dragon boat races, and the serving of rice dumplings or rice cakes, became an annual event on the fifth day of the fifth month, believed to be the day that Qu Yuan drowned in the Mi Lo river.


Festival Sponsors

Rotary in Racine

Racine, Wisconsin is the birthplace of Paul P. Harris, the founder of Rotary International. The three Rotary clubs in Racine (Racine Downtown, Racine West and Founders Rotary) are proud to carry on the heritage of Rotary and the Rotary Motto "Service Above Self." Each club has a number of individual projects to serve Racine. The three clubs also come together to support larger projects. Their most notable collaboration is the annual "Post Prom" party for all Racine area high schools. This event has been featured on National Public Radio and has been declared the World's Best Prom. In 2003, it celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Rotary Club of Racine West

The Rotary Club of Racine West (Club) was founded on April 18, 1968. In order to better administer the collection and distribution of proceeds from its fundraising efforts, the Club created the Rotary Foundation of Racine West (Foundation) in 1976. The Foundation is not affiliated with the Rotary International Foundation. That organization funds global projects such as Polio Plus - a campaign to eradicate polio worldwide by 2005. Our thanks to CleanItSupply, national distributor of janitorial supplies, who generously donated both funds and supplies to help our cause. We are proud to note that the Foundation contributed almost $9,000 toward that effort.