The 16th annual Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival will take place Sunday, August 7 at the
Burlington waterfront. The annual festival is a favorite in the area made popular by the energy
of community teams who eagerly paddle in 20-person dragon boats to raise money to support
cancer survivors. Despite the pandemic, this year’s festival promises to entertain and engage
paddlers and spectators alike with some of the high-energy entertainment like Zumba for
paddler warm-up and fast-paced paddling and splashing on the water. There will be musical
entertainment Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, along with savory treats from favorite food
trucks. And, most importantly, each team will participate in at least two 200 m races between
Splash and the Coastguard station, cheered on by the amazing energy of community fans.
Presented by Community Bank N.A., Dragonheart Vermont, the dragon boat organization that
hosts the annual event, seeks to raise money to support Vermont’s cancer survivors. This year,
the festival’s fundraising successes are shared with another local cancer organization, (the
Festival “Pledge Partner”), The Cancer Patient Support Foundation. CPSF’s work supports
Vermont cancer patients and their families so “all who face cancer can do so with dignity,
confidence and serenity.” Funds for Dragonheart Vermont support wellness and fitness
programs for breast cancer survivors and supporters.
Since its inception in 2005, the festival has been able to gift over $1million to organizations in the
community that support cancer patients. These include but are not limited to Camp Ta Kum Ta,
the McClure Miller Respite House, Integrative Therapies at the UVMMC Cancer Center, and, most
recently, the Cancer Patient Support Foundation.
Although all the participants enjoy the paddling, the highlight of the festival is the mid-day Flower
Ceremony. This breathtaking memorial has Breast cancer survivors teams paddle into a flotilla
formation, where founder, Linda Dyer, shares a few words, and survivor, Bonnie-Jean Arahonian
sings a specially-selected song. Paddlers from the water, joined by cancer survivors from the docks,
then offer a flower to Lake Champlain in honor of their loved ones.
The Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival began 16 years ago thanks to the dedication and hard
work of Dragonheart founders Linda Dyer, a breast cancer survivor, and her husband John Dyer.
Convinced of the research that linked dragon boating to breast cancer recovery at a time when many
doctors advocated rest, John and Linda began a breast cancer survivor and supporter team in 2006.
Seeing the need to sustain and grow the team as well as to support the community, Linda, John, and
a fearsome group of volunteers launched the first festival with 56 teams. Sixteen years later, it
celebrates its success with the community that gives so much to support it and make sure it can
happen each year.
As the community emerges from a worldwide pandemic, Dragonheart is especially grateful to have
such dedicated supporters who are willing to paddle, cheer and participate in so many ways to make
our community stronger.