Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Flood sinks dragon boat festival

As the town braces for unprecedented high water levels, the Boundary Waters Dragon Boat Festival committee was left with no alternative but to postpone this year’s festival until a later date.
Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce manager Annely Armstrong-Thorstad said they’re looking at a tentative date of Aug. 9 instead.

“The water is too high and it’s just too dangerous,” she stressed this morning, noting the swift current and debris in the water causes immediate concern for participants’ safety.
And with the International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board predicting a further rise in water levels over the next week, safe paddling conditions are unlikely to occur by July 1.
22 Dragons, the professional club that assists in running the festival, is available for Aug. 9 and is willing to reschedule.
“We are hoping the water should be down enough and the debris should have an opportunity to wash through by then,” Armstrong-Thorstad said.
“There’s a real possibility that on Aug. 9, it will be okay.”
Armstrong-Thorstad noted everything is in place for the festival so it’s just a matter of calling everyone and having it moved.
And with the date change, she said there’s a possible “silver lining.”
“Now we have the opportunity to have more U.S. paddlers,” Armstrong-Thorstad explained.
With July 1 being a work day across the river, the U.S. teams were struggling to get participants.
“It’s too bad that we can’t have it on [July 1] but at the same time, we might end up reaching our goal of having 18 boats this year,” Armstrong-Thorstad reasoned.
The committee apologizes for any inconvenience the postponement may cause, but are hoping everyone still will join in the festivities come August.
“People need to deal with all of this chaos right now,” Armstrong-Thorstad added, noting many are busy right now sandbagging and cleaning out basements.
“So maybe in a month’s time, people will be ready to paddle and will be able to enjoy themselves.”
In related news, the Canada Day committee will meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss its celebrations.

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