Published August 04, 2010, 12:00 AM

Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival teams practice all week to prepare for races on Saturday

“Attention!” Dragon Boat steersman Charlie Parson told the members of the Lifesavers dragon boat team Tuesday evening.

By: Anne Williams, Bemidji Pioneer

“Attention!” Dragon Boat steersman Charlie Parson told the members of the Lifesavers dragon boat team Tuesday evening.

“Sit up!” he said.

“Paddles up!”

“Take it away!”

Together, the 18 members of the Sanford Health team, dressed in red and yellow life preservers, pulled away from the docks at the waterfront. After a few minutes of paddle-nudging with neighbors, the team paddled in unison to a cadence set by the drummer. It was only their first practice, but they were focused.

The Lifesavers are one of 69 teams registered for the Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival this year. Each team is provided two one-hour practices during the week to prepare for the dragon boat races on Saturday.

Getting 20 people to work together to move a roughly 4,000-pound boat is not easy. It takes a lot of coordination and motivation. With the help of members of the Buena Vista Ski Patrol, who provide men and women to steer boats and monitor the race, it is doable.

“Our first practice went well,” said Lifesavers drummer Erin Petrowske. “When I was counting in fours, everyone else joined in and then we were all in sync. It made it easier when we were all moving in sync.”

Lifesavers captain Dianne Lundeen watched from shore as her team practiced. She has high hopes that this year the team will win the Health Cup, or possibly the whole event.

“They looked so good this time,” Lundeen said. “It’s always so much fun to watch.”

Most of the ski patrol’s members have participated in the Bemidji Dragon Boat races since the event started four years ago. Many of them have since perfected their ability to steer or provide instruction to teams.

“Most of us have done it from the beginning,” steersman Steve Modich said. “This is exciting. We patrol in the winter, and this is a chance for the patrol to get together in the summer, along with our families.”

Weather often plays a big part in determining the outcome of a race. Tuesday’s mostly sunny skies came as a relief to many participants and steersmen.

“Yesterday was hot and muggy, but the lake was like glass, so it was excellent,” steersman Modich said. “It’s not bad today. If there’s any roughness, it’s been on the other side of the lake.”

Butch Pfremmer, a member of the ski patrol, said this year he’ll be driving the pontoon boat on Saturday, monitoring the start of the race. He’s been a steersman in the past and last year was in the aluminum referee boat.

“It’s hard to sit on that boat for 10 hours. It’s a hard aluminum seat,” Pfremmer said, smiling. “Now I’m in the nice cushy pontoon boat. Life is good.”

Parson, who was the steersman for the Lifesavers’ dragon boat team Tuesday, said being on ski patrol in the winter and steering boats in the summer is a natural fit.

“We have a lot of fun, but there are a lot of button-down personalities here,” Parson said. “Because we’re dealing with life or death on the ski hill, it makes us a disciplined group that can do this. Typically when people say they’ll be here, they’re here.”

Dragon boat practices are an important part of building team unity and confidence. With help from the steersmen, by the end of the first practice, most team members have a pretty good idea of what to expect on race day.

“It was pretty tiring,” said Claire Baumgartner, a first-year participant with Bank Forward’s Draggin Forward team. “I’m actually pretty happy with how we did.”

Lifesavers captain Lundeen added that participating in the dragon boat races is not only fun, it boosts employee morale, too.

“This gives us a chance to get together when we’re not in work,” Lundeen said. “It’s a fun team building exercise. They only get a little wet.”

Y awilliams@bemidjipioneer.com

“Attention!” Dragon Boat steersman Charlie Parson told the members of the Lifesavers dragon boat team Tuesday evening.

“Sit up!” he said.

“Paddles up!”

“Take it away!”

Together, the 18 members of the Sanford Health team, dressed in red and yellow life preservers, pulled away from the docks at the waterfront. After a few minutes of paddle-nudging with neighbors, the team paddled in unison to a cadence set by the drummer. It was only their first practice, but they were focused.

The Lifesavers are one of 69 teams registered for the Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival this year. Each team is provided two one-hour practices during the week to prepare for the dragon boat races on Saturday.

Getting 20 people to work together to move a roughly 4,000-pound boat is not easy. It takes a lot of coordination and motivation. With the help of members of the Buena Vista Ski Patrol, who provide men and women to steer boats and monitor the race, it is doable.

“Our first practice went well,” said Lifesavers drummer Erin Petrowske. “When I was counting in fours, everyone else joined in and then we were all in sync. It made it easier when we were all moving in sync.”

Lifesavers captain Dianne Lundeen watched from shore as her team practiced. She has high hopes that this year the team will win the Health Cup, or possibly the whole event.

“They looked so good this time,” Lundeen said. “It’s always so much fun to watch.”

Most of the ski patrol’s members have participated in the Bemidji Dragon Boat races since the event started four years ago. Many of them have since perfected their ability to steer or provide instruction to teams.

“Most of us have done it from the beginning,” steersman Steve Modich said. “This is exciting. We patrol in the winter, and this is a chance for the patrol to get together in the summer, along with our families.”

Weather often plays a big part in determining the outcome of a race. Tuesday’s mostly sunny skies came as a relief to many participants and steersmen.

“Yesterday was hot and muggy, but the lake was like glass, so it was excellent,” steersman Modich said. “It’s not bad today. If there’s any roughness, it’s been on the other side of the lake.”

Butch Pfremmer, a member of the ski patrol, said this year he’ll be driving the pontoon boat on Saturday, monitoring the start of the race. He’s been a steersman in the past and last year was in the aluminum referee boat.

“It’s hard to sit on that boat for 10 hours. It’s a hard aluminum seat,” Pfremmer said, smiling. “Now I’m in the nice cushy pontoon boat. Life is good.”

Parson, who was the steersman for the Lifesavers’ dragon boat team Tuesday, said being on ski patrol in the winter and steering boats in the summer is a natural fit.

“We have a lot of fun, but there are a lot of button-down personalities here,” Parson said. “Because we’re dealing with life or death on the ski hill, it makes us a disciplined group that can do this. Typically when people say they’ll be here, they’re here.”

Dragon boat practices are an important part of building team unity and confidence. With help from the steersmen, by the end of the first practice, most team members have a pretty good idea of what to expect on race day.

“It was pretty tiring,” said Claire Baumgartner, a first-year participant with Bank Forward’s Draggin Forward team. “I’m actually pretty happy with how we did.”

Lifesavers captain Lundeen added that participating in the dragon boat races is not only fun, it boosts employee morale, too.

“This gives us a chance to get together when we’re not in work,” Lundeen said. “It’s a fun team building exercise. They only get a little wet.”

awilliams@bemidjipioneer.com

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