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Dragon Boat Festival future is uncertain

The future of the North Shore Dragon Boat Festival is uncertain. For eleven years, three of Cook County’s nonprofits – WTIP Community Radio, North Shore Health Care Foundation and North House Folk School – have collaborated leading the event forward. Together they have insured the event’s overall success and managed details ranging from on-water safety to on-shore parades, team training to community engagement.  

“We’re proud of the joy and excitement that the Dragon Boat Festival creates every year and appreciative of the many volunteers, invested business sponsors and talented staff who have made it possible,” noted WTIP’s Debbie Benedict. ”The three partners have worked well together, but now we have other commitments to the community that need to come first. New dragon boat leadership is needed.”

There is little doubt that the words “joy and excitement” accurately capture the dragon boat festival’s decade-plus on the water. Photo finishes, shouts of “Paddles Up,” water-drenched yet smiling paddlers, a harbor filled-to-overflowing with community members & visitors – the festival’s unique character is satisfying for many reasons.

Karl Hansen with NSHCF agrees: “We know the Dragon Boat Festival is an important part of the summer here in Cook County. Given this, we want to work hard to find a great new organization to lead the dragon boat festival forward.” Many of the key event puzzle pieces are already in place - colorful web site, safety protocols, clearly defined monthly tasks, etc - “Our years of working together have created an event with systems and plans that truly work,” Hansen said.  

Formally speaking, the North Shore Dragon Boat Festival is a 501-c-3 nonprofit with a mission to Paddle for Community. Like most dragon boat festivals around the world, the festival aspires to at once celebrate, build and support communities. “Dragon boat festivals around the world engage projects ranging from breast cancer to youth projects,” said North House’s Greg Wright. “We know the North Shore Dragon Boat Festival is great for our community in many ways. The event has and can continue to make an impact on important local cause. Our goal is to keep the event paddling into the future, and we want to work with the community to find a strong and positive new plan to keep it going.”

New leadership for the dragon boat festival needs to be in place by January 15th or the 2015 event may need to be cancelled. Jim Boyd with Cook County Chamber of Commerce has been active engaging potential partners.  Business leaders and community members are welcome to contact any of the current dragon boat staff or board - Benedict, Hansen, Wright, Dave Tersteeg, Julie Carlson and Matthew Brown - for more information.