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Ancient boat race benefits charities

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Daniel Hunt

Staff Writer

For the third year in a row, Troy University is taking to the water in the Montgomery Annual Dragon Boat Race and Festival on Saturday to benefit two local nonprofits.

Bridge Builders Alabama, a youth outreach program, and Rebuilding Together Central Alabama, which works to repair homes for those in need, are both based in Montgomery and will receive funds raised during the event.

Over 60 teams across central Alabama will have a chance to paddle in the race, which expects 2,500 participants. Food and drink, live music and art exhibitors will also be available.

Dragon boats originated in China over 2,000 years ago and were used to compete in high-effort races in southern parts of the country. The boats hold 20 primary paddlers, a person steering and a drummer. 

The drummer is seated in the front of the craft and is tasked with keeping the paddlers in sync with a rhythmic beat as the steersman controls the direction from the rear.

“It looks very tiring,” said Austin Deal, an administrative support specialist at Troy’s Confucius Institute. “It’s several people in a wooden boat rowing. But of course, it looks fun, assuming you have the athletic-type body.”

Pei Ju Hsieh, a sophomore undeclared major from Taiwan, was pleasantly surprised when she found out about the event. 

“I could not believe when I saw that there would be a dragon boat race in Montgomery,” Hsieh said. “Taiwan is basically a part of China, so I cannot wait to see the culture.” 

Austin Deal, an administrative support specialist at Troy’s Confucius Institute, has been to China and is familiar with its culture.

“I actually attended a real (dragon boat race) in China,” he said. “And then I’ve seen this one. It’s an imitation in a way, but it’s quite spot on. It’s quite impressive to do this in Alabama.”

For the first time, the Troy Confucius Institute will be a gold sponsor and will have a tent at the event to show spectators more Chinese culture through calligraphy. It is still not too late for students, faculty or alumni to register. 

Amy Waters, the director of community outreach on the Montgomery campus, hopes to gather two full teams to total 50 participants. 

Those interested should contact her by email at awaters@troy.edu.