A taste of the Orient lands in Lake Area

By By Jordan Gribble / American Press

Fourteen local businesses and industries

formed teams to compete in the Christus-St. Patrick Foundation’s

inaugural Dragon Boat

Races Saturday.

The races, an ancient Chinese

tradition, were held at the seawall and benefited

the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

“Dragon boating is China’s national

sport, one that’s over 2,000 years old and was brought to North America

about 30 years

ago, since then it's spread like wildfire,” said Matt Roberts, co-owner

of 22 Dragons, which supplied the boats and team training

for the event. “Basically you’ve got a team of 22 people,

with 20 of them being paddlers, one person who steers the boat

and a drummer who is there to motivate the team and keep their

timing together. The rowers paddle to the beat of the drum.”

“We thought that Lake Charles would be a

perfect venue for this event, with the beautiful lakefront, wonderful

park and very

civic minded attitude of the community,” said Christus-St. Patrick Hospital Administrator Donald Lloyd. “This is one of our

major fundraisers for our pediatric initiatives and we are just

super delighted with the turnout. We filled up all of the

available boats and still had teams trying to get in. This is the

first time we’ve held this event, but it certainly will

not be the last.”

The 14 competing teams included local businesses and industries such as Citgo, Coushatta, Entergy and Kohl’s, many of which

viewed the day as a valuable team-building exercise.

“This is a great team-building

opportunity for these businesses to get different people from different

parts of their organizations

who may not know each other or work directly with one another all

of the time, working together. Everyone here has the same

goal, getting across the finish line first,” said Chuck O’Connor, annual events manager for the Christus-St. Patrick Foundation.

A representative from team Citgo said the squad was determined to go home with the race’s first-place traveling trophy.

“We put our team together two months

ago, we did a tryout and selected the 25 strongest people and then

started paddling practice pool, we just started getting in sync and dictating the

paddler’s rhythm,” said Rodrigo Cardoso, a process engineer for Citgo.

The team in the event’s first qualifying round of, known as a heat, had scored a time of 55.6 seconds for the 200-meter course.

“It’s just like a drag race, you’ve

just got to get from point to another. The hardest thing is keeping the

balance and keeping

the 20 paddlers moving their oars in the same direction at the

same time, when they get out of sync the boat starts moving

towards one side or another,” Cardoso said.

The team for National Networks began practicing the night before the race but was hopeful that they would place first.

“In the first qualifying rounds, we were three seconds behind the top team. We’re going to beat them, we’ll put a hole in their

boat if we have to,” David Poole, employee of National Networks said.

In the finals, the Citgo team beat out National Networks for the top prize. L'Auberge placed third, edging out one of the Christus-St. Patrick teams, the Holy Rowers, in the third-place race.