Nearby communities to the north and south have held dragon boat races. Now the colorful Chinese boats powered by teams of paddlers are coming to Bradenton.
The first Bradenton Dragon Boat Festival, which organizers hope will become an annual event, is slated for Saturday in the waters off Riverwalk.
Dragon boats are long, colorfully decorated boats that typically hold a crew of 22 people. Twenty people row, one paces the rowers with a drumbeat and one steers.
Professional and amateur teams will race over a 400-meter course along the Riverwalk and around Manatee Memorial Hospital.
Officials of Tampa-based Pan Am Dragon Boat, event organizer, say they have long had their eyes on Riverwalk. The water and the facilities make it ideally suited for the sport.
"The area around Regatta Landing is excellent for this sport and this event," said Mike Kerkmann, president of Pan Am. "The lagoon area adjacent to Regatta Landing is perfectly suited. It's a sheltered venue with great viewing and lots of open space for vendors."
Dragon boats have ceremonial roots that go back for as long as 2,000 years in China. The long, narrow racing boats in this country are generally decorated with removable dragon heads and tails. The teams use specially designed paddles that are not affixed to the boats.
Details: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Regatta Landing Riverwalk, 452 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. Tickets: Free. Information: www.panamdragonboat.com.
-- Marty Clear