There was plenty of cheering from the shoreline as well as from on the waters of Lake Natoma at Black Miners Bar throughout the day Saturday as the much anticipated Dragon Boat Festival made its debut in Folsom.  Not only was the event a huge hit with participants, spectators and vendors alike, but with a splashing success when it came to fundraising for the area non-profit that took a chance and put it all on for the very first time. 

The inaugural Dragon Boat Festival and races were the brainchild of Powerhouse Ministries, located in Folsom. Bannered as a unique event to the city when it was first announced months ago, it was all to raise money for the charitable organization that leads the region in providing no-cost residential recovery programming for men, women, and teens.


By the end of the day on Saturday, the fundraising surpasses $100,0000 for the one day event, according to Josh Levine, Co-Executive Director of Powerhouse Ministries. Levin was confident that number was going to climb even higher as there was still earnings to tally surround the event that was deemed a true success with hopes of becoming an annual event on Lake Natoma and continue to grow year after year. 


“I want to thank everyone here for coming out and I just want to say that we are all winners here today,” said Nancy Atchley. Executive Director of Powerhouse Ministries, as she addressed large crowd of rowers that gathers at the awards ceremony. “I love what our coach here today said and that was that it doesn’t matter how strong we are but we paddle together and today, we paddled together and you have helped us break cycles of addiction, abuse and poverty and prevent those cycles from ever beginning in children. It’s been an amazing day and I am so grateful for all you that stuck it out here today.”

Upon arriving to Black Miners Bar Saturday morning, a total of nine different boats made up the roster, which consisted of 153 paddlers overall, an outstanding response for the first time event that didn’t even include last minute entries. Each team included 16 rowers, with one individual on the stern of the boat that was the drummer and motivator for their team, a long tradition when it comes to the unique sport.


Teams consisted of many modalities Saturday, including local businesses, churches, youth groups, local media, service clubs and more. Several dressed in costume for the competition and everyone, whether they finished first or last, was having a great time. More importantly, they were having a great time all for the great cause.


Each team not only signed up to compete, each particpant raised funds by soliciting and securing pledges for their entry, all of which went to powerhouse ministries. Once of the organizations competing Saturday also sponsored the event and they are no stranger to goodwill when it comes to Powerhouse Ministries as well as other organizations and projects across the community. Dressed as gnomes in felt hats, bright yellow shirts, felt hats and many with long fake beards, the Rotary Club of Folsom was hard to miss Saturday as they partook in the event, they got behind financially from its inception several months ago.

“The Rotary Club of Folsom has volunteered at Powerhouse Ministries for many years to help with facility improvements and programs. When we got the call about their inaugural dragon boat race, we jumped at the opportunity to be the first sponsor and boat registered, “ said Justin Raithel, President of the Rotary Club of Folsom. “Our team and supporters had such a great time that we’ve already signed up for next year to support the good work Powerhouse does in our community.”


The “Gnomies,” as they called themselves, were in the thick of the competition all day long and made into the finals where they competed against two other finalists, including the Bayside Buccaneers and team known as Real for the Win that lived up to its name, winning the final competition of the day and the title of champion for the inaugural event. The Bayside Buccaneers came in second in the final race of the Rotarians, who faded in final leg runoff the day that could have been due in part by their lack of aerodynamics in their tall festive hats, but it didn’t matter, as Atchley had said everyone was a winner Saturday considering the cause this was all for.

In preliminary heats on Saturday, the team known as the Dragon Ladies came out victorious over Fire on the Water in the first race of the day. Rotary Club of Folsom edged Trinity Rowers in their first heat with a time of 14:59 which was strong enough to secure their position in the finals later on.

Real for the Win won their heat against the Bayside Buccaneers. In the fourth race of the day it was Folsom City Lifestyle taking the top spot over Designing Dreams and Ignite. Race five saw Trinity Rowers snuff the Dragon Ladies as the eliminations continued. Folsom City Lifestyle won the sixth race over Fire on the Water while Designing Dreams redeemed themselves to defeat Real for the Win in race seven. Race eight it was the Rotary Club of Folsom continuing their strength, beating the Bayside Buccaneers and Ignite. In the D final Trinity Rowers defeated the Dragon Ladies. Fire in the Water won the C final. In the Minor Final, Designing Dreams won the Minor Final.

The grand finale was a close race from start to finish. Real for the Win claimed their victory with a time just over a minute with a time of1:12.79, the Bayside Buccaneers were second with 1:12.79 and the Rotary Club of Folsom was 1:16.32. All three boats were side by side for the first half of the stretch with Real for the Win pulled ahead to seal the victory.

In addition to the race winners, several special prizes were awarded Saturday for the team that raised the most month, the individual that raised the most money and the best drummer of all the teams. Planning is already underway for next year’s event. To keep up that visit

To see all of the winners and the complete awards presentations, check out the Folsom Times video in this article above.

Photos and video by Bill Sullivan, Folsom Times.

Bill Sullivan
Author: Bill Sullivan

Bill Sullivan has over 25 years of professional journalism and content creation experience in which he has earned 37 professional awards. He is the co-founder/publisher of Folsom Times an All Town Media LLC product.