What has 2,000 arms, 2,000 legs and a fierce spirit? It’s the Big Blue Dragon Boat Festival returning for its seventh year this summer, bringing another unforgettable spectacle for the whole community to enjoy.

This year’s festival takes place on June 22, a month earlier than in past years, along the Black River at Copeland Park in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

More than 50 youth and adult teams of more than 20 people each will compete on a 300-meter course in an energized race to the finish line. The teams paddle in sleek, colorful Hong Kong-style dragon boats provided by the event.  

Produced by Mayo Clinic Health System and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater La Crosse, the Big Blue Dragon Boat Festival is a celebration of community, health and fitness, and teamwork. It also celebrates breast cancer survivors, providing a sisterhood of support and activity that promotes healing. Plus, all proceeds from the Big Blue Dragon Boat Festival go to support the Mayo Clinic Health System Center for Breast Care and healthy lifestyles programming for youth at the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“It’s a high-energy, feel-good event that recognizes the power of community, teamwork and the human spirit,” says Heidi Odegaard, event coordinator for Mayo Clinic Health System. “And for our part, it illustrates our commitment to foster a culture of health and encourage one another to live the healthiest lives we can.”

It’s also a thrilling experience. Teams that formed from the first Big Blue Dragon Boat Festival now paddle in races all around the United States, with some paddlers even racing internationally at the IBCPC (International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission) Dragon Boat Festival in Florence, Italy, and the International Dragon Boating Federation’s Club Crew World Championships in Szeged, Hungary. 

But for these die-hard paddlers, there’s no place like home. Since its inception, the Big Blue Dragon Boat Festival has built a reputation as one of the Upper Midwest’s most well-run and welcoming events, drawing teams from Duluth, Minnesota; Superior, Wisconsin; and other cities in the tri-state area.

But it’s not all about the paddlers! After all, what’s a spectacular event without the spectators? In addition to watching the exciting races, you can find fun giveaways, merchandise, food trucks, free entertainment, and children’s activities, including games, inflatables, face painting, crafts, a magician and a balloon artist. Even better: Admission is free.

“This event has it all: fun, fitness, community and a cause,” says Odegaard. 

To learn more about the Big Blue Dragon Boat Festival, visit www.bigbluedragonboat.com.