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The dragons are back

Paddlers converge on Badger Lake for 2021 Dragon Boat Bash

-Messenger photo by Michaela Frerichs
Suzette Henschell of the Dragon Divas brought along this bra covered in pins from other Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat teams from around the U.S., and even around the world.

Hundreds of paddlers arrived at Badger Lake north of Fort Dodge Saturday morning in hopes of being the fastest dragons on the water.

The annual Badger Lake Dragon Boat Bash was able to return this year after making the tough decision to cancel last year.

Many teams came from hours away, as most Dragon Boat festivals were canceled again this year.

Linda Wrobel of the Minocqua, Wisconsin, Island City Dragon Boat Club and Karen Anderson of the White Bear Lake, Minnesota, Off the Edge Dragon Boat team both said there were no events being held in their areas this year.

Wrobel’s and Anderson’s teams joined forces to become the Off the Island team for Saturday’s event.

-Messenger photo by Michaela Frerichs
Off the Island, a combined team with members from Minnesota and Wisconsin, floats into the dock after winning a heat Saturday afternoon at the Badger Lake Dragon Boat Bash.

“We wanted to race,” Anderson said. “We got together because neither of us had enough members of our team that wanted to come.”

The pair said their teams would usually race four or five times in a year before the pandemic canceled most events.

Both team captains have been racing for many years.

“Minocqua has a Dragon Boat Festival, usually this time of year and I was on a community team,” Wrobel said. I think maybe that was in 2016 or 2017 and the first one I got hooked.”

Anderson first started Dragon Boat racing about 20 years ago.

-Messenger photo by Michaela Frerichs
"The future of Dragon Boat racing" youth division team makes their way to the finish line at the Badger Lake Dragon Boat Bash. For many of these paddlers, this was their first time on a Dragon Boat.

“A friend and I used to lead women’s adventure trips, and we found a Dragon Boat Festival,” she said. “We threw together a team for that year and then one year I said, ‘What if we practiced?’ And so we got the same group every year and we didn’t have a boat for years,. We’d sit on the ground and use broomsticks, but then we finally fundraised and got a boat and here we are.”

Off the Island was part of the Division A teams.

The Badger Lake event has several divisions each year for professional teams, community members, youth paddlers, and breast cancer survivors and supporters.

One of the breast cancer survivor teams, called Dragon Divas, traveled all the way from St. Paul, Minn.

Suzette Henschell, a member of the Dragon Divas, said the Divas try to come every few years to Fort Dodge. The Dragon Divas’ tent was decorated with different bras the ladies had decorated such as a “mardi-bra” with a Mardi Gras theme and a bra with bumblebees that said “Save the boo-bees.”

-Messenger photo by Michaela Frerichs
Two Dragon Boat teams race dragon snout to dragon snout to the Dragon Boat Bash finish line.

Henschell’s decorative bra was covered in pins from other breast cancer survivor Dragon Boat teams from around the world.

The Fighting Angels Abreast, a team comprised of breast cancer survivors and supporters, had a wide range of members including one still paddling at the age of 83.

One supporter on the team, Peggy Chalstrom of Moorland, said, “I’m not a breast cancer survivor myself but to know that there’s people out here who have been through it, and they made it, and they want to support you and say, ‘You go girl, I’ve been there.’ That’s got to be huge. It’s the encouragement to get out there and know your life is not over.” Chalstron said knowing the money they raise goes towards supporting people going through breast cancer treatment is enough reason for her to keep coming back to the Dragon Boats.

After a full day of races, the event ended with a Breast Cancer Survivor Ceremony and awards to the winning teams in each division.


-Messenger photo by Michaela Frerichs
A Dragon Boat team's drummer yells to the paddlers as they near the finish line Saturday at the Badger Lake Dragon Boat Bash.

Dragon Boat Bash

Race Results

BCS Finals

First place: KC Pink Warriors

Second place: Dragon Divas

-Messenger photo by Michaela Frerichs
A child slips and slides down the hill at Badger Lake Saturday during the Dragon Boat Bash.

Third place: Pink Phurree

BCS/Supporter Final

First place: Life is Bliss

Second place: Fighting Angels Abreast

Division D

First place: Night Cruiser

Second place: Dragoneirs

Division C

First place: One Fun Crew

Second place: SRD69

Third place: Cargill Corn Rowers

Division B

First place: Cedar River Gang

Second place: Silver Bullet

Third place: Interstates

Division A

First place: Flying Beers

Second place: Off the Island

Third place: New Coop Dragon Masters

-Messenger photo by Michaela Frerichs
A photo opportunity sign is shown at the Badger Lake Dragon Boat Bash.

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