Everything you need to know about

The Lake James Dragon Boat Festival


Lake James Event


The 2023 Festival was a huge success! See photos here.

This family-friendly event will include local and regional teams coming together to race against each other in a series of heats at North Carolina’s Lake James State Park, Paddy’s Creek Area. The event will begin in the morning on October 5, 2024, and conclude in the late afternoon. Spectators are encouraged to come to the park with their lawn chairs and blankets to enjoy the festivities. Admission is free.

Food vendors and music will keep the event energetic throughout the day! Teams from all over the region set up tents on the sandy shore, ready to take to the water.

wreathThe event also features a touching moment of silence in honor or in memory of those who have battled breast cancer. A flower will be placed on a special cancer ribbon wreath during the survivor ceremony.

To make an in-memory or in honor contribution, click here

A Brief History of Dragon Boats

With a history of more than 2,500 years, the sport of dragon boating originated in ancient China. The legends include warring states, radical politics, and fierce loyalty and passion written poetically by one man – Qu Yuan. Exiled from the land he loved, Qu Yuan committed suicide in the Miluo River in a final form of protest against the corruption of his era.

During an attempt to save Qu Yuan, the locals took to the river in their fishing boats, splashing their paddles to keep the water demons and evil spirits away.

Modern-day dragon boating has few elements to this ancient tale remaining, evolving into a worldwide competitive sport. In recent years, festivals with traditional Asian flare and culture are commonplace alongside a dragon boat race. High-level competitions have also been organized since the mid-1970s. The sport’s growth has been most commonly found at the grassroots level. Dragon boating has become an extremely popular vehicle for fundraising and a tool for corporate team building.

Teams with 18-25 people from all walks of life, any age, size, ability, and gender, learn to paddle on a dragon boat team. Twenty paddlers are seated in 10 rows of 2 with a drummer sitting in the bow, facing the paddlers. The paddler’s job is to paddle in unison with the entire team. The drummer aims to beat the drum in sync with the paddlers and motivate their team to the finish line. A steersperson (provided by the festival organizers) stands in the stern of the boat, guiding the boat straight down the racecourse with a 9-foot oar.

Healing Dragons of Lake James

The event initially began with the local team, Healing Dragons of Lake James, a group of three women who had gone through breast cancer and thought this would be a great opportunity to bring this watersport to Morganton. Their mission is to inspire, encourage, and support survivors of all cancers to triumph over the disease. Healing Dragons have grown to include volunteers, supporters, sponsors, and survivors – all striving to improve the quality of life, not only for the cancer survivors but also for the families through knowledge, education, and friendship.

For more information on the Healing Dragons of Lake James, visit their website.

Dragonboat Festival Team 2023
dragonboat about us image 2