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West Point Lake to host Dragon Boat Race

By Alicia B. HIll
Times-News

On Saturday, 28 teams will race to see which group has the fastest — and most colorful — rowers on West Point Lake, during the fourth annual Dragon Boat Race.

The annual event benefits Harmony House Domestic Violence Shelter, which provides emergency shelter, security, crisis-intervention, education and advocacy for adults and children who are victims of domestic violence. This year, Harmony House hopes the fundraiser will raise $40,000 through the event.

The race will once again begin at Pyne Road Park at 8:30 a.m., with team registration and tailgate set-up beginning at 6:45 a.m. The closing ceremony is expected to take place sometime in the early afternoon. Some of the winners will receive oars painted by local artists.

“Some of Chris Hagebak’s students have done paddles this year, and they decorated them,” Harmony House Executive Director Michele Bedingfield said. “They will be given out as some of the awards. Those will go to the Voters’ Choice Award winners. We are very excited about that.”

While the teams are out on the lake, there will still be plenty for viewers to do between races.

“We’ll be doing some racing, and we’ll have a lot of food vendors — something hot, something cold, something sweet, some hamburgers, hotdogs, the gambit,” Bedingfield said. “The exciting part is each team has a tailgate area, and they can do whatever they want there. So, I know many of them will do their own door prizes and their own games and their own giveaways. They keep that all top secret until the day of.”

The teams have the opportunity to compete for the best tailgate as well, with awards for best tailgate, team spirit, best team name, best drummer and best dragon’s choice up for grabs. Voting is $1 a vote, and anyone can vote. Additionally, the City of LaGrange and LaGrange College are partnering to have the show mobile at the event, and Jack Morman will be the event’s emcee.

“There is no charge to come, because of our sponsorship from Mike Patton Auto Family, the event day is paid for,” Bedingfield said. “We don’t have to charge admission. We don’t have to charge for parking. It really encourages everyone to come out and have a good time.”

Bedingfield said that funds raised in the community make it easier for Harmony House to access grants, because it shows that the community supports the shelter’s work in the community. The event also provides an opportunity to explain to people exactly what the shelter does.

“We’ve averaged 2,500 to 3,000 people out there each year, so that is 3,000 people knowing that Harmony House is here in town, knowing that we are a domestic violence shelter, that we support all victims of domestic violence — men, women and children,” Bedingfield said. “Just the awareness that it brings is important.”

According to Harmony House’s website, 144 residents were sheltered there in 2018, with 50 of those sheltered being children. Additionally, it served 117 client’s through outreach and participated in 126 civic, employment and school presentations promoting awareness and prevention of domestic and teen dating violence.

“One in four women are abused, so chances are someone will be out there who has walked in those shoes or knows of someone that needs help,” Bedingfield said.

To learn more about Harmony House or the Dragon Boat Race, visit Wpldragonboatrace.com or check out West Point Lake Dragon Boat Race 2019 on Facebook.