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Dragon boat races at Concord’s Weekend on the Water set new pace for parks and rec festival

  • Brian Sartorelli, left, sits at the drum on the bow of the Dragon Boat as the rest of the Concord Parks and Recreation team prepare to shove off from a dock to compete in a race. Concord kicked off the inaugural Weekend on the Water at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park on Saturday, September 7, 2013 and will run through Sunday. Along with live music, a fitness challenge, and duck boat tours through downtown, the event also had Dragon Boat races. Each boat consists of up to 22 people including a drummer and helmsman that paddle against other boats.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Brian Sartorelli, left, sits at the drum on the bow of the Dragon Boat as the rest of the Concord Parks and Recreation team prepare to shove off from a dock to compete in a race. Concord kicked off the inaugural Weekend on the Water at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park on Saturday, September 7, 2013 and will run through Sunday. Along with live music, a fitness challenge, and duck boat tours through downtown, the event also had Dragon Boat races. Each boat consists of up to 22 people including a drummer and helmsman that paddle against other boats.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Opponents hi-five each other following their Dragon Boat race on the Merrimack River during the inaugural Weekend on the Water at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park on Saturday, September 7, 2013. The event will run through Sunday. Along with live music, a fitness challenge, and duck boat tours through downtown, the event also had Dragon Boat races. Each boat consists of up to 22 people including a drummer and helmsman that paddle against other boats.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Opponents hi-five each other following their Dragon Boat race on the Merrimack River during the inaugural Weekend on the Water at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park on Saturday, September 7, 2013. The event will run through Sunday. Along with live music, a fitness challenge, and duck boat tours through downtown, the event also had Dragon Boat races. Each boat consists of up to 22 people including a drummer and helmsman that paddle against other boats.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Brian Sartorelli, left, sits at the drum on the bow of the Dragon Boat as the rest of the Concord Parks and Recreation team prepare to shove off from a dock to compete in a race. Concord kicked off the inaugural Weekend on the Water at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park on Saturday, September 7, 2013 and will run through Sunday. Along with live music, a fitness challenge, and duck boat tours through downtown, the event also had Dragon Boat races. Each boat consists of up to 22 people including a drummer and helmsman that paddle against other boats.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Brian Sartorelli, left, sits at the drum on the bow of the Dragon Boat as the rest of the Concord Parks and Recreation team prepare to shove off from a dock to compete in a race. Concord kicked off the inaugural Weekend on the Water at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park on Saturday, September 7, 2013 and will run through Sunday. Along with live music, a fitness challenge, and duck boat tours through downtown, the event also had Dragon Boat races. Each boat consists of up to 22 people including a drummer and helmsman that paddle against other boats.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Brian Sartorelli, left, sits at the drum on the bow of the Dragon Boat as the rest of the Concord Parks and Recreation team prepare to shove off from a dock to compete in a race. Concord kicked off the inaugural Weekend on the Water at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park on Saturday, September 7, 2013 and will run through Sunday. Along with live music, a fitness challenge, and duck boat tours through downtown, the event also had Dragon Boat races. Each boat consists of up to 22 people including a drummer and helmsman that paddle against other boats.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Brian Sartorelli, left, sits at the drum on the bow of the Dragon Boat as the rest of the Concord Parks and Recreation team prepare to shove off from a dock to compete in a race. Concord kicked off the inaugural Weekend on the Water at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park on Saturday, September 7, 2013 and will run through Sunday. Along with live music, a fitness challenge, and duck boat tours through downtown, the event also had Dragon Boat races. Each boat consists of up to 22 people including a drummer and helmsman that paddle against other boats.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Brian Sartorelli, left, sits at the drum on the bow of the Dragon Boat as the rest of the Concord Parks and Recreation team prepare to shove off from a dock to compete in a race. Concord kicked off the inaugural Weekend on the Water at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park on Saturday, September 7, 2013 and will run through Sunday. Along with live music, a fitness challenge, and duck boat tours through downtown, the event also had Dragon Boat races. Each boat consists of up to 22 people including a drummer and helmsman that paddle against other boats.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Opponents hi-five each other following their Dragon Boat race on the Merrimack River during the inaugural Weekend on the Water at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park on Saturday, September 7, 2013. The event will run through Sunday. Along with live music, a fitness challenge, and duck boat tours through downtown, the event also had Dragon Boat races. Each boat consists of up to 22 people including a drummer and helmsman that paddle against other boats.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Brian Sartorelli, left, sits at the drum on the bow of the Dragon Boat as the rest of the Concord Parks and Recreation team prepare to shove off from a dock to compete in a race. Concord kicked off the inaugural Weekend on the Water at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park on Saturday, September 7, 2013 and will run through Sunday. Along with live music, a fitness challenge, and duck boat tours through downtown, the event also had Dragon Boat races. Each boat consists of up to 22 people including a drummer and helmsman that paddle against other boats.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Brian Sartorelli, left, sits at the drum on the bow of the Dragon Boat as the rest of the Concord Parks and Recreation team prepare to shove off from a dock to compete in a race. Concord kicked off the inaugural Weekend on the Water at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park on Saturday, September 7, 2013 and will run through Sunday. Along with live music, a fitness challenge, and duck boat tours through downtown, the event also had Dragon Boat races. Each boat consists of up to 22 people including a drummer and helmsman that paddle against other boats.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

When emergency room staff wear scrubs and listen for a constant beat, they are normally tracking heart monitors in the hospital.

But yesterday, a group of ER and other Concord Hospital employees stroked their paddles in the water to the beat of a drum in a dragon boat on the Merrimack River, matching each other’s pace and racing across the water. Their team, “Cirrhosis of the River,” was one of eight competing in the dragon boat race during the inaugural Weekend on the Water event hosted by the Concord Parks and Recreation Department at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park.

“We were actually surprised we were able to row in sync the first couple of times we practiced. (But) people who do CPR on a regular basis should have good rhythm,” Concord Hospital employee and team member Tony Parenti joked.

And just like the paddles pushing the long boats along the river, the inaugural Weekend on the Water was in sync with success. An event that failed to come together last year drew a steady crowd yesterday throughout the late morning and early afternoon.

Laura Bryant, recreation supervisor for parks and recreation, said more spectators than she anticipated turned out for the dragon boat races and other events.

“We have this beautiful park that is severely underutilized,” she said. “No one is ever down here. We have awesome access to the water and (the dragon boat races are) a great way to get people down here and show them one of our awesome parks in Concord.”

A dragon boat is similar to a long canoe and can seat 20 paddlers. Just behind the carved dragon heads on the bow of each

boat, a drummer sets pace for the team, while a helmsman steers from the back of the group. This year’s boats came from 22Dragons out of Montreal.

The crowd watching the boats slip through the water was light at 9 a.m. when the first heat began, but traffic picked up significantly in the early afternoon around the opening of the beer garden and the race finals.

David Gill, director of parks and recreation, took up his own paddle with the rest of the department for the 200-meter race.

“It’s a little more work than I thought,” Gill said, rubbing his shoulders after the first of his three races. “There’s 20 people sitting butt-to-butt so to speak, and you’re about 6 inches out of the water, and you have to do all the paddling in unison to go together, but it was fun. Everybody was laughing and cheering.”

While the department attempted to host dragon boat races last summer, it was canceled when not enough teams signed up for the event. Gill said the department started planning last year’s event too late to draw enough interest. But this year, Bryant estimated the Maddog Fitness Challenge, the craft beer garden, live music and duck boat tours of Concord – in addition to the dragon boat races – drew about 1,000 people to the park by the end of the day.

Living Root, a club dragon boat team from Boston, won the day, but second place went to One 2 One Brian’s Fitness of Concord and third to a team from Black Ice Pond Hockey. All proceeds from the event will go toward building the planned skate house in White Park, and Gill said he hopes the donation will be between $3,000 and $5,000.

Among those attending early in the day was Rosemary Couch of Concord, who came to see the boat races with her husband.

“I’m a little disappointed with the number of people,” she said midmorning. “Maybe over the day, more people will come. It would be nice to have this as an annual event and enjoy our beautiful river.”

More families and spectators had arrived by the time Dennis Jakubowski of Penacook brought his young daughter, niece and nephew to the riverside. He and his wife are looking for a new home but want to stay close to Concord to take advantage of events like Weekend on the Water.

“This is definitely one of the reasons we want to stay,” he said, looking around at the growing group near the yellow buoy marking the finish line.

He could be in luck – Weekend on the Water continues today with a duck race and races with Concord Crew, among other events, and both Gill and Bryant already said this event will be back next summer.

And if Brian Sartorelli’s enthusiasm as a drummer for the parks and recreation boat – the “Rec Ing Crew” – was any indication, the dragon boats could continue to boost this end-of-summer festival. Sartorelli led his boat in a Viking hat and colorful floral swim trunks, bellowing “Row! Row! Row!” as he pounded on his drum in the front of the boat.

“There’s a lot more people than I expected, which is good,” he said between races. “It’s a nice day out on the river.”

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Weekend on the Water: Sunday

8 a.m.-1 p.m. Concord Crew Regatta

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Concord Arts Market

11 a.m.-2 p.m. Food vendors

11 a.m.-1 p.m. Live music

1 p.m. Rubber duck race

10 a.m.-3 p.m. Rock climbing wall

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

Legacy Comments1

A little disappointed there was no coverage of the Sunday events. The Regatta was well attended and packed the Everett parking lot.

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