Braggin' about the Dragon: Austell sails to second consecutive victory in cancer fundraiser

May 22—ACWORTH — Hundreds gathered at Dallas Landing Park on the shores of Lake Allatoona to watch and compete in the Acworth-Cobb Dragon Boat Festival.

Spectators sat in chairs, dipped their feet in the water, ate lunch and soaked in the summer weather as dragon boats skimmed across the lake's shimmering surface Saturday.

The event, held for the fifth time, began in 2017, missing a year in 2020 due to the pandemic, and benefits cancer outreach programs in a seven-county area, including Cobb. Each team pays an entry fee and does its own fundraising, After expenses, all proceeds go to cancer outreach programs.

Over the previous four years of the event, it has raised $36,000, according to Linda Evans, president of the Acworth-Cobb Dragon Boat Festival. Last year, the race raised about $10,000 for Loving Arms Cancer Outreach.

The teams were divided into three categories on Saturday: local government, cancer survivors and community organizations.

Evans, a Smyrna resident and two-time breast cancer survivor herself, paddles on a boating team out of Lake Lanier in her free time. She said she started the annual tradition in Cobb County based on the ancient Chinese tradition of dragon boat racing.

"Living in Smyrna, I have always wanted to have dragon boats here in the county, and that's the reason we have this festival," Evans said.

Dragon boats seat up to 20 rowers, who sit in rows of two. A steerer sits at the back of the boat and a drummer, facing backward, sits at the front. The drummer beats a rhythm for the rowers, who attempt to row in sync to move as quickly as they can through the water.

Among those boating Saturday were Austell Mayor Ollie Clemons Jr. and Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood, who supported their respective cities. Allegood was aboard the Acworth entry, doing his best to help his city win the race.

Thanks to strong team chemistry and synchronized paddling, Austell won the city government races besting Acworth and the Cobb Sheriff's Department. For the Austell team it was a repeat victory, earning the city bragging rights for another year, Clemons said.

"That's the second year in a row ... so yeah, we're excited," Clemons said. "So yeah, we'll be contenders from now on trying to keep that trophy."

Allegood, who is in his 20th year as mayor, was diplomatic in his response.

"It's just a great opportunity to get together and to give back to our community and help people that are struggling with cancer. This is just a great event, and I am glad to have my friend Ollie with me. We were just happy to let them win today," he said.