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The City Journals

First-ever Dragon Boat race and cultural event held in Daybreak

Sep 29, 2021 01:30PM ● By Rachel Aubrey

The Zander Realty “green machine” took first place overall in the first-ever dragon boat race held in Utah. (Photo by Rachel Aubrey/ City Journals.)

By Rachel Aubrey | [email protected]

On Aug. 28, Live Daybreak sponsored the first-ever dragon boat race on Oquirrh Lake. 

Teams of approximately 16 to 20 sat side by side in a 40-foot dragon boat and paddled 200 meters in a straight line from one end of the lake to the other, in an event that checked all the boxes for the values that Live Daybreak strive to embody, including connecting, lifelong learning, embracing arts and diversity, and heathy living. All teams were invited to do a practice on the lake on the proceeding Thursday and Friday and were introduced proper paddling techniques and commands to use on race day. 

“Daybreak likes to do unique things that are original,” recreation Manager Sandra Gierisch said, “This is the first time ever a dragon boat race has been held here in Utah.”

Those wanting to participate in the race were asked to pay a team fee prior to race day, $700 for corporate teams, $500 for community teams and $300 for student teams. All the entry fees were donated to the Asian Association of Utah, a nonprofit organization that provides immigrants and refugees with social services such as English as a Second Language classes, counseling, interpretation and translation services, and help for victims of human trafficking. More than $10,000 was donated in total.

“We like to do different events that make people more aware of culture,” Gierisch said.

Live Daybreak brought in Canadian vendor Great White North, who facilitate dragon boat races all across the United States. Nineteen teams competed in all, and the qualifying races began at 9 a.m. To ensure safety of participants, a professional steersperson was on board each boat, along with a team drummer, who was in charge of helping each team keep pace as they paddled. 

Beginning at 9 a.m. with seven qualifying races, each team got to race against one to two opposing teams. The winning team in each qualifying race then raced against the winner from another qualifying race in a semi-final. The overall winners for the day’s competition were Zander Realty.

Daybreak resident Stephanie Clark joined with friends and neighbors to create the Ladies of Eastlake team. Clark was excited to participate in a Daybreak activity that was both physical and for a good cause. The Ladies of Eastlake took 10th overall.

“I liked that it was for a charity,” Clark said. “It was an opportunity to get together.”

Two of the competing teams included students from Skyridge High School in Lehi. Chinese Language teacher Aaron Andersen brought students enrolled in upper-level Chinese language courses to paddle in the race. The entry fees for the students to be able to race were paid for by Utah Valley University, with whom Skyridge has a concurrent enrollment program for Chinese language. The Chinese 5 AP class took fourth overall, and the Chinese 3 and 4 class took sixth overall. 

“We didn’t know what to expect coming into this,” Andersen said. “It was nice to have a Chinese connection to this type of event.”

Community members had the opportunity to participate in cultural activities while the dragon boats raced. Millcreek residents Henry and Jeanette Luu brought their knowledge and passion for the ancient Chinese art of writing known as calligraphy. With a paint brush and black watercolor, husband Henry, guided participants on how to do simple brushstrokes to write their names in Chinese.

Cultural performances began with a number by dancers from the Salt Lake City Ballet, Chinese Dance Division. Under the direction of head instructor Cora Chan-Lazalde. Formerly Salt Lake Chinese Dance Art, Chan-Lazalde founded the group in 2007 to be able to share and teach her passion for Chinese dance. The dance company integrated with the ballet in 2018.

“I’m very big in sharing Chinese culture,” Chan-Lazalde said. “An event like this will help a lot of Chinese people born in America to embrace their heritage, and for those who are from America, to understand the Chinese culture.”

For more information and schedules about Live Daybreak events, visit www.mydaybreak.com/happenings.php. For more information about the mission and services at the AAU, visit www.aau-slc.org.