By Kevin Shannahan
Saturday’s abysmal weather did not deter 14 teams of paddlers eager to show their mettle in the 4th annual Dragon Boat Races held on Natchitoches’ picturesque downtown riverbank on April 13. The storms held off just long enough for teams of paddlers to complete their races. This fun event has rapidly become an area-wide favorite, growing in popularity each year. Teams came from various NSU student organizations, and local businesses. The Natchitoches Sheriff’s Department’s “Donuts and Delinquents” team took top honors in the Corporate category with the NSU Scholars’ College taking top honors among the student teams, albeit with a considerable boost from a few members of the Demon football team. Fort Polk’s Bayne-Jones Hospital made its third appearance at the races, sending a team of soldiers and their families to compete, enjoy a day of hospitality and a well earned respite from their duties. The soldiers’ Spartan robes, swords, shields and spears easily won the best costumed crew contest. A jazz band of NSU student and alumni musicians entertained the crowd throughout the morning.
The event has a serious purpose, however. It is a major fundraiser for Northwestern State University’s First Year Experience Office. This year’s race is expected to bring in $8,000 to help fund leadership development programs, speakers and workshops, all designed to help new NSU students successfully navigate the critical first year of college.