Slaying it on the causeway

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Dragon boats, paddlers take on Palma Sola Bay The first Anna Maria Island Dragon Boat Festival brings paddlers March 7 to the Palma Sola Causeway for a day of races. According to organizer Melinda Bradway, 48 teams competed, including some community teams, in the largest event held in the Southeast. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff
The Invictus Paddling Club competes in an early race at the Anna Maria Island Dragon Boat Festival on the Palma Sola Causeway.
The Mainsail Vacation Rentals Team prepares to race in a 200-meter contest at the Anna Maria Island Dragon Boat Festival.
Members of Holmes Beach Mighty Dragons shove up in their boat to compete against Mainsail Vacation Rentals and Longboat or Bust! in a 200-meter race on Palma Sola Bay. Longboat placed first, Holmes Beach second and Mainsail third.
Cheerleaders encourage AMI Paddlers from Paradise at the first Anna Maria Island Dragon Boat Festival, held March 7 on the Palma Sola Causeway.
Paddlers ready for a race while dragon boats await teams at the first Anna Maria Island Dragon Boat Festival. Race day was March 7, when 48 teams, plus some local “community teams,” assembled on the Palma Sola Causeway to compete.
AMI Paddlers from Paradise step out of their dragon boat after competing in a 500-meter race in Palma Sola Bay. The island-based team also hosted the daylong festival.

They came to socialize, celebrate and slay.

And the paddlers who competed March 7 in the first Anna Maria Island Dragon Boat Festival on the Palma Sola Causeway beach also did some shivering on the windy, chilly Saturday, as did the friends, family and curiosity-seekers who showed up to cheer them from start to finish.

The island-based AMI Paddlers from Paradise hosted the Pan Am Dragon Boat event, months in the making, as well as competed and won bling.

Paddlers from Paradise brought 48 teams from throughout the southeast United States to compete in 500- and 200-meter races.

Several “community teams,” including Holmes Beach Mighty Dragons, Longboat or Bust!, city of Anna Maria, Mainsail Vacation Rentals and Hancock Whitney Bank, also competed.

In addition, participants and racing fans brought nonperishables to donate to the Food Bank of Manatee.

Organizer Melinda Bradway of AMI Paddlers described the festival, with more than 500 paddlers, as “fantastic” and provided some results of local interest the day after::

• AMI Paddlers from Paradise’ senior women’s team finished first and won gold.

• AMI’s premier women’s team finished second by less than a second and took home silver.

• AMI’s senior mixed team finished third and won bronze.

• In the first annual “Island City Championship,” Longboat Key “or Bust” won gold, Holmes Beach Mighty Dragons won silver and Anna Maria took home bronze.

• In the first annual ‘Community Business Championship, gold went to the Spartans, Hancock Whitney Bank won silver and Mainsail Vacation Rentals won bronze.

Bradway said the festival was the second largest in the Southeast.

For more information, go online to

— Lisa Neff