Dragon boats due in town in April

A Portland Youth team in a racing dragon boat similar to the two boats organizer Micheal Lockhart has already secured for the summer on Wallowa Lake.

Volunteers have stepped up to organize the first dragon boat event — the ceremonial “Awakening of the Dragon,” tentatively scheduled for the last week of April.

“We plan to be on the water with two 6-16 boats by the first of May,” said organizer Mike Lockhart.

The 6-16 boats, similar to the Hong Kong racing boats, are light (800 pounds), 22 paddler boats used by most Portland racers.

Lockhart secured the boats for the season on a “swap lease.” The local club must undertake some modest fiberglass repairs and organize a “how to dragon boat” clinic taught by Jeff Campbell of Double Fifth Dragon Boating of Vancouver, B.C., prior to the boats hitting the water in exchange for free use of the boats through the season.

Lockhart has two members of his tram team who are experienced in fiberglass repair, so he has undertaken that part of the swap deal. The club members will split the cost of the $1,200 clinic.

Lockhart, who is president of both the Wallowa Lake Tram and the Wallowa Lake Tourist Committee, called the meeting to update interested persons and begin the work of creating a formal club. He hopes to back out of any club business as soon as it is off the ground and continue his focus on the late summer dragon boat races wearing his Wallowa Lake Tourist Committee hat.

The Wallowa Lake races have a tentative date of Aug. 27-28. The plan for the Wallowa Lake races is to include the traditional 500-meter sprint race as well as a race unique to Wallowa Lake: the dragon slalom.

“Our slalom is unique,” Lockhart said. “It’s generating a lot of interest. I’ve received soft confirmations from seven teams. Bear in mind, most teams do wait until the month of the event to register because they have so many other commitments.”

With each team bringing not only 22 paddlers but alternates, tillers, callers, coaches and family, Lockhart said that finding motel or airbnb rooms was potentially a problem and that he was hard at work on that.

“We’re definitely looking at expanding to Enterprise and surrounding areas,” he said.

The Sunday, March 27, meeting saw 18 potential club members in attendance and all supported the rules suggested by Lockhart.

“I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible and as cheap as possible,” Lockhart said.

Annual dues were set at $60 per person with a free T-shirt thrown in. Rowing fees were set at $10 per month.

Several members of the March 27 group volunteered to serve in committees to get the club off the ground. Election of officials will wait until the club has a formal membership list and knows for whom they are voting.

For now, the club has an Awakening Ceremony Committee, a potential treasurer and a team captain who also will serve with another volunteer as the Scheduling Committee in charge of creating “time on the water” schedules for both competitors and recreational paddlers.

More than 40 individuals have indicated an interest in the club and event. The next step is for interested parties to sign up to the club and pay their dues. Lockhart expected to have registration forms online by mid-April.

To keep up to date on “Dragons in the Wallowas,” visit their Facebook page or dragonsinthewallowas.com.

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