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September 7, 2010 > Camping and racing and playing, oh my!

Camping and racing and playing, oh my!

By Alissa Gwynn

It's not every day that you see hundreds of boys camping at local park or witness a race on Lake Elizabeth in 10-person "dragon" boats. But September 10 and 11 won't be just an ordinary weekend for Tri-City area Boy Scouts; it will be one of the largest Bay Area Boy Scout events, complete with overnight camping at Central Park, performances, Dragon Boat racing, and games.

"[Scout Day at Lake Elizabeth] is an opportunity for existing members to share in camaraderie and competition, as well as an opportunity for everyone in the Tri-Cities to come out and learn about us," says Joe Barton, Mission Peak District Executive, and one of the key coordinators of this event.

So what exactly does Dragon Boat racing entail? Although Dragon Boats are similar to canoeing, the main difference is in the number of team members (10 or 20; the Scouts will be using 10-person boats). The sport originated in the southern provinces of China over 2,000 years ago, and has since developed into both a cultural phenomenon and competitive sport. In San Francisco, Kaiser Permanente has hosted an International Dragon Boat Festival for 14 years. This year, the festival falls on Saturday, September 25 and Sunday, September 26.

Steve Cho, Mission Peak District Chairman, pitched the idea of Dragon Boat racing for the Scouts after participating in two Dragon Boat races related to the Paddle for Life Fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. At those two events, Cho met Alvin Wang, who is associated with Bay Area Dragons (BAD) and will be providing the boats for the event. Cho says, "In a Dragon Boat, getting all participants to row in unison is the major factor in the outcome of a race. It is much easier to coordinate among two people, but when you have 10, the coordination is much more difficult."

After organizing the Dragon Boats, event coordinators, Steve Armstrong, Gary Ely, Tom Sims, TC Noble, and Don Uriu, in addition to Barton and Cho, approached the Fremont Parks & Recreation Department to approve their plans. Park Supervisor, Damon Sparacino suggested turning the racing event into an overnight Scouting extravaganza.

Normally camping is not permitted in Central Park at Lake Elizabeth; this is only the second time it has ever been allowed. Altogether, there were will be approximately 300 scouts camping out in 120 tents, 200 boaters, and 150 Cub Scouts. The campers will arrive and set up on Friday evening, and the next morning there will be a ceremony tailored to honor and remember those who perished on 9/11. Following the ceremony, Scouts 6th grade and older will begin Dragon Boat racing while Cub Scouts in 1st to 5th grade will participate in various games and activities.

Throughout the event, Taiko Drums from Newark will perform, a Police Explorers Unit from Union City will be present, and the Scout Band will perform. Mission Peak District Commissioner Armstrong says, "This will be an opportunity for [the community] to see kids having fun, and say [to themselves], 'Hey, this is kind of neat, how can I join?'"

According to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) website, "The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation's largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness." BSA celebrates their 100th Anniversary this year.

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