It may resemble the Loch Ness Monster — several of them actually, churning down the Raccoon River in the Des Moines area. The 4th annual Dragon Boat Festival opens at 8 a-m. Organizer Chuck Hanrahan says the tradition began 2500 years ago in China. Each boat holds 21 people — 18 rowers, a flag catcher, a drummer and a person to steer. Each boat weighs about 1200 pounds and they’re being steered around a 300-meter course. Hanrahan says the appearance of the boats may be a bit alarming — or amusing. One of the boats is designed to resemble a cow. Hanrahan says about 20 teams are taking part in this year’s competition and festival. Races will run every 20 minutes until about five p-m. The finals start tomorrow (Sunday) at noon. They’re racing at Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines. The Chinese began the tradition of racing the boats to pay homage to the dragon which the Chinese believed controlled the water for crops.
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