SPARTA, NJ – Sparta’s newest tradition, the Sparta Education Dragon Boat Festival, took over Lake Mohawk Beach 1, the boardwalk, the lower field and the corner of the lake all day on Sunday, May 21.

This year 48 teams raced.  With at least two races per team, the heats went from 8:30 a.m. until the finals ending around 2:30 p.m.  Each boat was propelled by 20 rowers and a drummer.  The steerers in the back of the boats were provided by Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing.  They also ran practice sessions for all of the race participants.

 “When you look around you’ll see many teams in colorful costumes representing local organizations, businesses, friends and neighbors,” Sparta Education Foundation President Danielle Dykstra said in prepared remarks. “Their enthusiasm is contagious and everyone gets caught up in the competitive spirit of the day. From the opening Dragon Boat ceremony that kicks off the races to the award announcements at the end of the day, it’s great to be a part of the Sparta Education Foundation’s third annual Dragon Boat Festival.”

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The 16 teams that raced for the medals were

  1. RedShed Crossfit
  2. RDA Fitness
  3. American Muscle,
  4. Power Hour,
  5. That’s How We Row,
  6. Oar We There Yet?
  7. Organized Chaos,
  8. Team 4-titude,
  9. Forty Fists of Fury,
  10. Cast $ More’s Dragons,
  11. Dragon Slayerz,
  12. Savage Dragons,
  13. Techflex Titans,
  14. The DisOrderly Dinghy,
  15. Holy Ship,
  16. Ball and Chain

In the end, the team comprised of Sparta High School students took the Team Spirit Award, voted on by the professional steerers. 

“The best part of the day was being part of a big family,” Sparta High School senior Kada Cernek said. 

“One team, one boat, one stroke.  That’s how we row,” the team chanted. 

Each Sparta school was well represented with teachers, staff and administrators rowing and volunteering to manage the docks. 

The gold medal went to RedShed CrossFit.  Second place silver went to RDA Fitness.  The final bronze medals went to American Muscle. 

Gail Dooling won the kayak raffle that had been donated by Pelican Sport Center. 

Three year participant Sarah DiGigioia said, “Today is awesome, raising money for a good cause.  Every age group can participate. You can’t ask for a better lake than Lake Mohawk. You can’t ask for better weather.”

The weather was an ongoing discussion throughout the day.  Last year’s race started under gray skies that let loose rain and even hail and sleet at times.  This year, by comparison was about 20-30 degrees warmer and sunny.  Much more conducive to a festive atmosphere in the boats, on the boardwalk and in the tent area.

The fundraising event was supported by several sponsors:

  • Newton Medical Center/Atlantic Health Systems was the major sponsor for the second year. 
  • Fogarty & Hara the Fair Lawn Law firm that represents the Sparta School District; specializes in representing schools, special education and employment. Rod Hara represents Sparta schools.
  • Lake Mohawk Country Club
  • Northern Pride Web Design that creates premier custom solutions for online businesses.  Rodney Calafati designs and maintains the Sparta Education Foundation’s website.

Other in-kind sponsors included;

  • George Morville of Arthur J. Gallagher & Company.
  • Brown & Brown Benefit Advisors
  • Nisivoccia, LLP., Certified Public Accountants and Advisors
  • Villa Capri II in the Upper Lake Plaza
  • Lake Mohawk Pool hosted the Dragon Boat practices at the Lake Mohawk Pool dock.

The Sparta Education Foundation has supported Sparta’s Public Schools since 2006.  To date $782,000 in grants have been provided to all five schools. 

“It is just a thrill to be at the Dragon Boat Festival, whether you are one of the paddlers on 48 teams or cheering on the racers as a spectator,” Dykstra said.  “We are incredibly grateful to have so many people supporting our students, which enables us to fund future educational grants for our public schools.”