Huge Crowds for Sparta Education Foundation Dragon Boat Festival

Winners of the Sparta Education Foundation's Dragon Boat Races. Credits: Jennifer Dericks

SPARTA, NJ – Dragon Boat Festival brought thousands down to the Lake Mohawk Boardwalk on Sunday.  The Sparta Education Foundation held this unique fundraiser in which teams of 20 rowers and one drummer to keep the pace, raced for the gold medal.  With 42 boats there were 882 participants. 

The teams had clever names and many had T-shirts made.  There were even a few racers in costume; Captain America, a Ninja Turtle and a dragon.

Each boat also had a steerer provided by Race Dynamics, the company that brings the boats and sets up the race, offered training runs and kept the scores.  Members of the New Jersey Dragon Boat Club, based in Parsippany, also worked the race, keeping the loading and unloading of the teams safe. 

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The Race Dynamics crew include two women who are part of professional Dragon Boat racing team called Pink Steel, comprised of Breast Cancer survivors.  Founded in 2005 they are based in Pittsburg part of the Steel City Dragons They took second in international competition and are ranked first in the United States.

The race got off to an interesting start when one boat capsized, something that has only happened once before in 17 years of racing, according to race organizers.  Lake Mohawk Country Club lifeguards assisted the team and no one was injured.  The teams in that heat were given a ‘do-over.’

Friends, family and many from the community lined the boardwalk all day, cheering on the teams. In the lawn next to the playground teams had a staging area where they set up tents. 

The LMCC sold drinks and ran a grill for burgers and other food.  A DJ provided music for the crowd.

Coinciding with the Dragon Boat races was the Taste of Sparta event.  Restaurants from the area offered tastings from their menus.  An estimated 1000 adults and 500 children participated in that event. 

Jay Dunn, LMCC Trustee and Chair of the House Committee said, “This was a phenomenal success.  We didn’t know what to expect with the SEF event happening at the same time.  The restaurants were cooperative, not knowing how many people they would have to serve.  We ended up serving twice the number of people as last year.  They were all enthusiastic about the day.”  

After 22 heats, divided into morning and afternoon rounds, it came down to the finals.   The twelve boats with the fastest times participated in three heats.  The three fastest teams went home with medals and bragging rights.

The winners were:

  1. Puff Dragons
  2. Redshed CrossFit
  3. Oar We There Yet?

The field of teams:

  • Sync Oar Swim
  • Dragon Slayerz
  • Oar Else
  • CrossFit Skylands 1* & 2
  • RDA Fitness*
  • Team Spartacular
  • Inspired Fitness
  • Jacked and Tan*
  • Npower Ninjas
  • Jolly Rogers
  • Sparta High School Strokes of Genius
  • Sparta High School 2*
  • Sparta Middle School Seas the Day
  • You’ve Been Schooled
  • Blazing Paddles
  • Stars and Stripes Forever
  • Keep Calm and Drag On
  • CougarDragon
  • Floating Bricks
  • Wellness Pediatrics
  • Team Feeling Nauti
  • Zumba and More
  • Twin Hickory Docks
  • Dragon Our Tails*
  • Team Tsunami*
  • Coldwell Banker
  • Dragon our A$$e$ or Ashes
  • Organized Chaos
  • Team Fireball
  • Smoke on the Water*
  • Cast and More’s Dragon Team Henry*
  • The Zipplebacks
  • Won Fun Crew
  • The Thirsty Dragons
  • Eastern Propane
  • Motley Crew*
  • Weichert Warriors
  • Smokin Dragons


Tom Anderson, Puff Dragons captain said, tongue in cheek, “The team was fill with competitive hearts.  Each rower was hand selected for their individual skills.  Winning was never in doubt.”

Participant Shelley Battaglia said, “This was really fun.  People were competitive but it was all fun.  This was a great day for Sparta.”

The Sparta schools were well represented with seven boats of teachers, staff members and administrators.  Superintending Dennis Tobin, Assistant Superintendent Melissa Varley, Principal Joe Leone, Principal Laura Trent, Assistant Principal Frank Ciaburri, Assitant Principal Brad Davis and Athletic Director Pat Shea all rowed.  Principal Michael Gregory and Business Administrator Linda Avarez were there to cheer them on. Principal Doug Layman, also a Trustee of the SEF, worked on the dock all day. Board of Education members Doug Mc Kernan, Jack Surdoval and Kylen Anderson competed.  Anderson is a former SEF Trustee and President.

Many sponsors helped to make the day possible.  They were:

  • Fogarty and Hara, Esqs.,
  • Brown and Brown,
  • Newton Medical Center,
  • Homewood Suites,
  • Villa Capri,
  • Ocean State Job Lot,
  • Lake Mohawk Country Club,
  • Bridge Marina,
  • George Morville of Gallagher Bolinger,
  • Charm,
  • North East Kettle Corn

SEF President Dorothy LaBeau said, “We are thrilled at what a success our first Dragon Boat Festival was.  Thank you to the sponsors.”  When asked if they will do this again next year, LaBeau said, “Definitely, we’ll be talking to the [Lake Mohawk] Country Club soon.”

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