The ancient Chinese sport of dragon boat racing made its debut on the Potomac River during the Memorial Day weekend and Alexandria was represented by a crew of local women known as the Alexandria Community Rowers.
Most of the women on the team are members of the Alexandria Community Rowing club, but not all. "This crew was a very diverse group. We had seasoned rowing champions as well as novices on board. We ranged in ages from thirty-somethings to 50-somethings," said team captain and drummer LaDonna Curzon.
"There were a lot of us moms on the boat," Curzon noted, "and we were happy to have a chance to show our children that we can still get out there and 'just do it.'"
More than 40 teams from across the country participated in the two-day festival sponsored by the Chinese Women's League of Washington, D.C. The races were held on 250-meter and 500-meter courses in front of the Washington Harbor in Georgetown. Thousands of spectators lined the banks of the Potomac to watch the colorful boats, painted to resemble a dragon, race to the pounding beats from the boats' drummer.
Besides being the inaugural dragon boat festival in the area, the event was also the Eastern Region Dragon Boat Championships and a special tribute race for breast cancer survivors.
THE ALEXANDRIA TEAM originally were to race in the inexperienced women's division, but was placed in the mixed division because there were not enough teams to compete in the inexperienced women's group.
"We weren't expecting to paddle against men, but we looked at it as good experience," Curzon said. "The main objective for most of us on the crew was to try something new and have fun." Race organizers predict that there will be enough entries next year to field an inexperienced women's division. "This sport is really taking off in all the major cities and as it becomes more known in this area, I think more people will want to experience this kind of rowing" Curzon said.
Two members of the crew, Nancy Bea and Wanda Street, were interviewed by a radio station from Taipei, Taiwan. Their interview was broadcast in Taiwan on Monday. "It was a great experience," said a paddler, "even though I was sore afterwards. My kids thought it was just awesome."