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6 | APRIL 15, 2015 NEWS FLATHEADBEACON.COM Dragon Boat Festival Ready to
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County Board of Adjustment approves conditional use permit needed for Lakeside to host Sept. 12-13 event
By MOLLY PRIDDY of the Beacon
The Montana Dragon Boat Festival will move from Bigfork to Lakeside for this year’s event, after the Flathead Coun- ty Board of Adjustment gave the festival’s organizers approval for the necessary con- ditional use permit.
For the past three years, the festival, which draws thousands of spectators and dozens of 22-person teams, has anchored at the Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork. However, the long-term financial feasibil- ity of the event and the lack of parking at the lodge led the Kalispell Convention and Visitor Bureau to consider moving it else- where.
The recently formed West Shore Visi- tors Bureau, representing Lakeside and Somers, approached the KCVB about moving the festival to Lakeside, thereby providing more parking, along with the town center within walking distance from the event.
Representatives from both the KCVB and the WSVB told the Board of Adjust- ment on April 7 that the festival would be a good fit for the small West Shore town, es- pecially since Volunteer Park connects the lake to the rest of the town.
Not only would there be more and closer parking options, but the waters are calmer on the west side of the lake than where the festival was held previously, Di- ane Medler of the KCVB said.
Bringing the dragon boats to Flathead Lake has been a financial boon to the val- ley, Medler said, bringing in about $4 mil- lion over the last three years. Many of the teams come from out of the area and stay
A team of paddlers powers a dragon boat on Flathead Lake. BEACON FILE PHOTO
Move to Lakeside
in hotels and eat at restaurants, she said, and 98 percent of the people surveyed about their experience said they would re- turn.
Of the roughly 40 people in attendance for the meeting, several stood to tell the board about their personal experiences with the festival, noting its health and emotional benefits, as well as the way it brings the community together.
Several Lakeside business owners were also in attendance, and spoke in favor of bringing thousands of people to their town.
“It’s a very well organized event, and what a great thing for the community,” Josh Townsley, founder of Tamarack Brewing Company, said.
The festival organizers said proposed sites include the main festival space at Volunteer Park, with a view of the race- course right off shore. The organizers have contacted the landowners along Lakeside Boulevard to determine if they are amend- able to spectators accessing their shoreline
properties, and if they don’t, the KCVB will erect fences to protect them, Rob Bris- endine said on behalf of the KCVB.
Of the conditions imposed by the con- ditional use permit, all were found accept- able to the board, though there were some changes to reflect the true dates of the fes- tival to include setup and cleanup.
The only additional condition imposed by the board was the requirement for 40 port-a-potties to help bolster the existing facilities.
After the 3-0 vote to approve the con- ditional use permit, board member Ole Netteberg said he was impressed with the festival’s organization.
“This whole presentation, it kind of makes me want to do it,” Netteberg said.
Registration is now open for teams to sign up for the festival at www.MontanaD- ragonBoat.com. The KCVB expects about 60 to 65 teams this year for the Sept. 12-13 event.
mpriddy@flatheadbeacon.com
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