Dragon boats race at Pyne Road Park

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, July 13, 2021

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On Saturday, Pyne Road Park was packed with people gathered for Harmony House’s fifth annual West Point Lake Dragon Boat Race. There were many tailgating areas and food trucks to visit.

The event was hosted by the Harmony House board of directors, earning money for the Harmony House domestic violence shelter. On Monday, Harmony House Executive Director Michele Bedingfield estimated that the event had raised $35,000.

“We still have a few invoices to pay and a few donations to collect,” she said.

The first place winning team overall was LaGrange Police/Fire Department, which is determined by fastest time. CrossFit Higher Ground came in second, and Southern Rehab Sports & Medicine was third. All three teams received a trophy.

Through voting contests, several other teams won titles. Duracell was voted as having the best tailgate area. City of LaGrange Police/Fire Department was voted as having the best team name (Smokin’ Pigs), Troup County Domestic Violence Task Force was voted as having the best drummer, and Mike Patton Auto Group was voted as having the best team spirit.

Community Bank and Trust won the Dragon’s Choice award.

“Unlike the other four awards, which are voted by the community, the Dragon’s Choice award is selected by a group of anonymous judges [for] a team that exemplifies the work we do at Harmony House and in our community,” Bedingfield explained. “It is [for] a team that has energy and excitement, collaboration and positivity for themselves and for the other teams around them.”

Three new teams participated in the race this year — Kleen-Tex, Troup County Government, and West Point Lake Trojan Club.

“I think a team is made up of so much more than just what the company is,” Bedingfield said. “A team is made up of friendships and a family. And it’s camaraderie, and it’s collaboration. In order to win, you have to work together. But for some people, it’s not always just about the winning. It’s just about getting to know each other for a common cause, which is ending domestic violence.”

Cale Hosey, a paddler with Country Financial’s “Country Cats” team, said he was enjoying the exercise and nice weather at the event.

“[It’s] fun to see everybody and then compete,” he said.

Hosey said his team did a one-day practice event on Thursday.

“It’s exciting. I like to see all the people out here,” said David Patton, co-owner of Mike Patton Auto Family. “I think [considering] last year with COVID everybody is ready to get out again.”

Patton said Mike Patton Auto family sponsors the Dragon Boat Race every year because it believes in what Harmony House does for the community.

“We want to give back as much as we can to the community,” he said.

Mike Patton Auto Family was this year’s presenting sponsor. The dock sponsors were Milliken and The Medicine Cabinet, and the hospitality sponsors were the Troup County government and Los Nopales. Mannington was the parking entrance sponsor, and LaGrange Beverage was the parking exit sponsor.

According to the race’s official website, dragon boat racing is done in a “Hong Kong-style,” 46-foot-long boat with a drummer and a team of up to 20 paddlers. The drummer sets the pace for the paddlers. Additionally, Bedingfield said that each team has a professional steerer who stands in the very back of the boat. In order to move steadily through the water, the paddlers must paddle in sync with one another.

Teams race in heats with the top 12 qualifying for the finals.

According to its website, over the last five years, Harmony House has responded to about 4,221 crisis calls, sheltered 583 residents including 258 children, and served about 545 clients through their outreach office.

If you need assistance from Harmony House, you can call their 24-hour crisis line at 706-885-1525.