Dragon Boats Head Back to Bigfork

Eighth annual Montana Dragon Boat Festival to take place at Marina Cay Resort Sept. 7-8

By Molly Priddy
The Montana Dragon Boat Festival on Flathead Lake on Sept. 12, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The chaos of summer is beginning to wind down in the Flathead Valley, with fall knocking on the door of September. But residents know the summer doesn’t end until the last dragon roars on Flathead Lake.

On Sept. 7-8, hundreds of people will descend on Bigfork to watch the eighth annual Montana Dragon Boat Festival at its new home at the Marina Cay Resort. Bigfork Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rebekah King said the chamber is thrilled to take over the event from the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A dragon boat is 46 feet long, with 10 seats for 20 paddlers, one drummer to keep the beat for the paddlers, and one person steering the Hong Kong-style vessel. Each boat has a carved dragon leading it through the waters on its bow.

The first Montana Dragon Boat Festival took place in Bigfork, held at the Flathead Lake Lodge. It stayed there for a while before moving to Lakeside for a couple years, and then back to Bigfork this year. King said the planning committee expects 400 people a day to watch the spectacle.

“We have 23 teams, and we are super excited because the venue this year is Marina Cay Resort,” King said. “It’s a perfect fit.”

Spectators will park in the nearby school parking lots, and can take a shuttle to the marina. The shuttle also runs to downtown Bigfork, where spectators can do a little shopping and enjoy the local businesses while keeping tabs on the action on a huge screen at the end of Electric Avenue that will play the events live.

“We want to encourage people to shop and eat and drink and enjoy Bigfork,” King said.

Spectators can watch the races from the lawn of the resort, where there will be food, beverage, and retail vendors. Camp chairs are encouraged, and dogs are not allowed.

“We really are keeping everything Bigfork-focused,” King said.

Anyone with questions is invited to call the chamber at 406-837-5888.

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