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 results.panamdragonboat.com/ami/.
— Lisa Neff