Overcast skies and mild temperatures, coupled with a cool breeze and no rain, may have given the fourth annual Dragon Boat Race Festival its best attendance to date Saturday.
An estimated 10,000 spectators came out to watch 19 boat teams each make three competitive rowing trips apiece across 300 yards to the finish line at Bringle Lake. This was to benefit HandsOn Texarkana, said Kathey Graves, the organization's executive director.
HandsOn Texarkana is involved in helping local nonprofit organizations recruit volunteers, support skilled parenting, connect youth to volunteer programs, secure volunteer transportation for senior adults and recruit volunteers for the Community Organization and Activation for Disaster Relief, Graves said.
Last year, the festival drew a crowd of about 7,500—well more than the initial 1,500 the event drew during its launch June 11, 2016.
Graves said last year's festival raised close to $30,000 and this year, she is hoping the event collects at least that.
Besides spectators, the event featured several food and merchandise vendors.
Even though dragon boat racing started in China some 2,500 years ago, it came to Texarkana four years ago as a suggestion by the daughter of David Carter, HandsOn Texarkana's board president and race chairman.
"My daughter was helping organize one of these races in north central Arkansas, so we decided try it here and it has grown ever since," Carter said. "We started our first race in June (of 2016), then the next two, we did in April, now this year, we moved it to May and so far, we've had great weather for all of them.
While most of the 20-member boat teams represent local businesses, Graves said teams could also consist of family members, friends and nonprofit corporations.
"This year, we had three youth teams from three local high schools compete," she said.
Besides the spectators, the participants enjoy the event.
Phillip Burkhalter, with JCM Industries Inc., a local pipe fitting manufacturing company, said his firm has participated in the race for all four years.
"This is a good way of conducting team building for the company," he said. "It's also great to be here to help benefit people in Texarkana."
Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Matt Neese said the race gives people a good chance to get out in the community."
"I've gotten to see people that I haven't seen since college," he said.