If Lake Orion had its own Dragon boat…

This article was published by The Oxford Leader.  Click here to view the article on Oxford Leader’s website. 

By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

The Lake Orion Art Center got a taste of fire, and now wants the whole dragon.

After five years of Dragon boat racing, of watching teams sprint their scaly, low-profile, 42 foot long Dragon boats along the coast of Lake Orion for the highly sought, annual championship, Dragon Boat Race Director Rob Cavanagh decided it is time to bring Lake Orion its own official Dragon Boat.

In order to do this, sponsor Orion Art Center (OAC) must raise a total of $5,000 before July 4 to put a down payment on a slightly used Dragon boat. Each year the OAC rents six boats from the Canadian based company Great White North, but if the center raises $5,000 they have a chance to purchase one of these slightly used boats before the August races this year.

On Sunday, February 22, those that are in agreement that Lake Orion needs their own Dragon Boat are encouraged to dine at the Lake Orion Buffalo Wild Wings, where 20 percent of the total proceeds that day will be donated to the Orion Art Center’s Dragon Boat Fund.

The OAC will then have one year to pay off the rest of the cost, another $5,000, through a zero percent interest loan. Cavanagh plans to raise funds through boat rentals and additional fundraisers.

In its sixth year of sponsoring the Dragon on the Lake Boat Races, the OAC’s main goal is to turn Lake Orion’s annual and most attended festival into something greater for avid Dragon Boat racers, and to essentially make the event pay for itself.

“The event has been wildly successful in the past years, and teams have actually come to us saying we need to get a boat of our own,” Cavanagh said. “So we’ve been asking ourselves, what could Dragon Boat racing be in this community. We don’t want to limit ourselves.”

Cavanagh foresees Lake Orion — which as a community is already centered around the Dragon with the high school’s mascot and the legendary tale of the lake — to utilize the Dragon races to become a  marketable and profitable anchor in the community.

If Lake Orion had its boat, the OAC could offer it to prospective teams to try out, recruiting more for the annual races. Cavanagh is eager to recruit a Lake Orion Youth team through Lake Orion High School, along with a permanent Lake Orion cancer survivor team.

Current teams could also rent it out and begin practicing in the spring. Even further, Lake Orion could have more than one race per year and set up a league of racers that compete on a weekend basis.

Last year the OAC Dragon Boat Races raised about $8,000 for the art center. It costs the art center roughly $16,000 to put on the Dragon Boat Races, and with the 33 predicted 2015 teams spending almost $1,000 each for the event, along with renting one less boat, Cavanagh predicts the OAC could raise several extra thousand dollars this year alone with the investment.

And if Lake Orion secures one boat, why not two or more?

In the future Cavanagh sees Lake Orion supplying the community with multiple boats, showcasing them at Green’s Park in an official boat house.

If we are going to take the step and the commitment to buy the boat, we need a plan and strategy to where it can be the biggest benefit to the community,” he said. “The boat house gives us a vision of what dragon boating could be in the community.”

Lake Orion architects SA&A designed a four-vessel boat house that could potentially be stationed near Green’s Park, the location of the yearly Dragon Boat Races.

“In the past Green’s Park historically provided a boat house, so we thought this was the ideal location to store the boat and keep it on display for the publics’ viewing. It would really showcase Dragon Boat racing in the community.”

While this idea will be more applicable in the future, the Orion Art Center is excited to begin planning for the greater idea now.

“We don’t expect the festival to get any smaller,” Cavanagh said. “It’s really exciting. It’s bigger than all of us. For now we are nurturing this idea and helping guide it in the right direction.”

The next fundraiser, a golf outing, is being planned in April.