Dragons awaken in Freo

• Dragon boaters awaken their mythical beasts in preparation for next month’s festival. Photo by Steve Grant

FREMANTLE’S Fishing Boat Harbour will be getting a Chinese makeover next month for the inaugural Fremantle Dragon Boat Festival.

The festival, on Sunday May 5, will feature match racing between the city’s half-dozen dragon boat clubs, and a celebration of Chinese culture with music, entertainment and the colourful lion dance provided by the Chung Wah Association.

Members of the Australian national dragon boating team, the Auroras, will also be coming down to do some training.

Organiser Nella Fitzgerald, who’s hoping to make it an annual event, says the beating of the boats’ drums, gongs and the entertainment will make it a loud and colourful spectacle.

The awakening of the dragon boat ceremony has been celebrated in China for more than 2000 years, and that country reportedly has more than 50 million paddlers.

National

But WA surprisingly punches above its weight in the international stakes, as our paddlers dominate the Australian national team which finished seventh overall in the last world championships. Two of the national coaches are Sandgropers.

Dragon Boat WA president Barbara Clarkson said it was great to get dragon boats into Fremantle Harbour as it was an opportunity to promote and develop the sport even further.

“We’re hoping that it will become an ongoing event because it’s such a great location; the regattas are held at Champion Lakes, but let’s face it, that’s a fairly sterile environment and probably not somewhere you’re going to take the kids for a day out,” she said.

Rex Tindal is president of the Fremantle Swan Dragon Boat Club, which is the oldest club in Australia, having been established in 1981.

Mr Tindal says the club didn’t even have a dragon boat when it formed, with members sticking papier mache heads onto borrowed surf boats.

But these days they’ve got half a dozen boats stored near the Swan Yacht Club in East Fremantle, while he’s on the board of the Australian Dragon Boat Federation and is heading over east during Easter to compete in the national championships.

The Fremantle Dragon Boat Festival will be held on May 5 from 10am-3pm at Fishing Boat Harbour.

by STEVE GRANT

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