Dragon boat racing club introduces sport to urban audience

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Two Dragon Boats racing in the Chicago River.

Dragon Boat Racing is the fastest growing team sport in North America and the Greater Chicago Dragon Boat Club is determined to entice as many people as possible to pick up a paddle and get on the water. In 2016, the GCDBC was formed after operating in the suburbs under another name.

“We wanted to be centrally located,” explains Susan Villanosa, the club’s president. “Many people in the city don’t drive and couldn’t get out to the suburbs.”

Group photo of Greater Chicago Dragon Boat Club members.

The sport of Dragon Boat Racing is more than 2,000 years old, with roots in China. Many people may be familiar with it through the annual festival in Chinatown at Ping Tom Memorial Park. The festival is so popular that it sold out in less than two weeks after registration opened this year.

The GCDBC will introduce Chicagoans to the fast-paced, competitive sport as part of a dragon boat demonstration Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in an exhibition race in the Jackson Park Inner Harbor from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m (6400 S. Lake Shore Drive in Chicago).  Spectators will be able to go on the boats and paddle for a hands-on experience

Two typical dragon boats traveling along the Chicago River.

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“We want to make dragon boat racing accessible to anyone who wants to take part in the sport,” says Villanosa, who got hooked six years ago. “It’s a very democratic sport in that we provide the equipment, the coaching, and all everyone needs to do is be prepared to have fun.”

The demonstration is being hosted by 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston, Jackson Park Yacht Club, Southern Shores Yacht Club and Museum Shores Yacht Club.

“I saw the dragon boat races in Chinatown and thought this would be a great addition to all of the water activities that take place in our harbors,” explains Hairston.  “So, I invited the Greater Chicago Dragon Boat Club to the community to expose residents to this exciting sport.”

Members of the Greater Chicago Dragon Boat Club.

GCDBC meets every Sunday at 10 a.m. out of the Chicago Rowing Foundation Boat House near Goose Island at 1020 W. Weed St.  The first two classes are free to everyone interested in the sport.

For more information, go to the Greater Chicago Dragon Boat Club’s Facebook page to learn more about classes, practices and events.

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