Return of the Dragons: Annual Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival is all about fighting cancer

photos by Jeff Thompson

Five years ago, a new invasive species swam into Half Moon Lake. Forty feet long with brightly colored scales, it was sleek and swift with bulging eyes, flared nostrils and a toothy grin. The dragons of the lake had arrived in the Chippewa Valley as part of the inaugural Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival.

Raising money for cancer programs

Sponsored and hosted by Mayo Clinic Health System, the event initially raised money for hospice programs. Fast forward to 2018, and the fundraising focus switched to cancer programs and continues with this focus at this year’s event on Saturday, Aug. 3.

“We know there is a significant need for local cancer support service funding,” explains Renelle Laffe from Hope in the Valley, which is a Chippewa Valley-based nonprofit cancer advocacy organization. “Bringing the community together to support this need in a fun, deeply meaningful way is both powerful and healing.”

The Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival is going strong as a joint partnership between Mayo Clinic Health System and Hope in the Valley. The mission and goals of this year’s event are to:

  • Fundraise for local cancer programs and services 

  • Educate on cancer prevention, research and healthy living 

  • Celebrate cancer survivors and those currently fighting the disease, and remember loved 
ones lost 

  • Provide a family-friendly event for the community to enjoy 


Half of the proceeds will benefit the Albert J. and Judith A. Dunlap Cancer Center at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, and half will benefit local cancer service organizations and charity care. The proceeds will be given in person on the Day of Giving Hope, which is Dec. 2. 


Why dragon boat racing? 


Equal parts sporting event and spectacle, dragon boat racing is a team sport that has its roots in ancient China. In the last 30 years, dragon boat racing has been revitalized and is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. Each brightly colored dragon boat is propelled by a crew of 20 paddlers, a drummer and steer person working together as a team to finish the race. 


In addition to the excitement of watching and cheering for the dragon boats as they race to the finish line, the festival also includes music and a variety of tasty food vendors to enjoy. The Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival is a high-energy, fun-filled day — proven by being voted the Best 
Sports/Recreation Event (non-run/walk) in Volume One’s Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll three years in a row.

But don’t take our word for it. Check out the hype and fun for yourself. Register a team to paddle, sign up to volunteer or attend as a spectator. The Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival will be held Saturday, Aug. 3 at Half Moon Beach. More information is available at halfmoondragonboat.org.


This post was produced through a partnership
with Mayo Clinic Health System ... Learn more!

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