Dragon boats return to the city during River, Set, Go! this weekend at Promenade Park, which is marking its second anniversary.
There were no dragon boat races last year because of the pandemic, but on Saturday teams will paddle their boats down the St. Marys River through the park at 202 W. Superior St.
“I am really excited to have the dragon boat races back this year,” says Andi Douthitt, Riverfront Fort Wayne special events coordinator. She's also looking forward to floating yoga, which made its debut at River, Set, Go! last year.
Local band U.R.B. will perform at 5 p.m. today at a Paddles Up Party for the dragon boat teams, which the public is welcome to attend. Food trucks are expected, and there will be games on the park lawn.
On Saturday, Mayor Tom Henry will open the festivities at 9:15 a.m. with the traditional “dotting the eyes” ceremony where eyes are painted on a dragon head that gets attached to a 22-person boat. Members of the Fort Wayne Chinese Families and Friends Association will perform traditional dances before teams hit the water for race heats beginning at 10 a.m.
There will also be crafts for children and a bubble party on the park's lawn along with vendor and information booths from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Harrison Street will be closed to traffic at the park so Athletes Village can be set up on the Harrison bridge and food trucks will have a place to park.
There is a lunch break at 1 p.m. that includes a spicy ramen eating contest, and the public can vote for its favorite dragon boat team name, team shirt and team spirit by making a donation to Riverfront Fort Wayne.
The race winners will be awarded at 3 p.m., then members of the public can try their hand at dragon boating with free tutorials and practice runs from the park's north dock.
Floating yoga begins at 5:30 p.m. with instructors on platforms in the river and participants on the amphitheater.
People with canoes, kayaks and other human-powered boats can meet at Guldlin Park around 6:15 p.m. to sign in for the Paddle Parade, which takes off about 6:45 p.m. and will make its way down the river to Promenade Park about 7 p.m. for spectators waiting there.
Parade participants are encouraged to decorate their boats – and themselves, Douthitt says.
Local band CheckMark performs at 7:30 p.m. in the bandshell, and the festivities close with a finale including a fire pit floating on the river at 9:30 p.m.
It's a full day of activities, most of which are free to the public, Douthitt says.
“Riverfront is totally prepared to celebrate the second summer Promenade Park has been open, and there are so many things to watch on land, participate in, eat and drink just to celebrate all day long for all ages,” she says.