by Ashlee Bishop
As water splashes aboard, a forceful thud (from a paddle) smacks your arm and you begin straining “core muscles” you didn’t know you had…this is when you realize that dragon boating is intense! Hip-to-hip with your row partner, unified by the beat of the boat drummer, and with your adrenaline pumping miles per minute, you can feel the camaraderie in the boat.
GRAEF employees recently tested the waters at the 3rd Annual Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival. With the experts in the front (the “pacers”), the strongest/burliest in middle (the “engine”), and energizers (the “rockets”) in the back of the boat, our team pulled together and made waves from the beginning. With one promising practice under our belt, we were happy with the analysis of our skill level and “ready to row.” Spurred on by the contagious enthusiasm of Team Captain Julie Olson, 20+ staff members from various areas of the company, and even some spouses, committed; there was no better time to show and prove. Early on Saturday morning, July 11th
at the lagoon at Veteran’s Park,
support for Team GRAEF poured in.
Nervously loading into the narrow boat, individuals went in…and one fused team returned! Racing in groups of four, 38 teams competed at the festival. Bonding over refreshments, in-depth and genuine conversations, and exhausting physical exertion helped move the 8-hour day along at a steady pace. Since the event was put together by the Milwaukee Chinese Community Center, and with Chinese Fest mere steps away, this was definitely a cultural experience. There were more than 1,000 people sprawled across the grass in teams, with family, and passersby. Groups of people with matching shirts, vendors, and fitness fanatics all seamlessly gathered nonstop throughout the day to watch the neck-to-neck races.
The first two races Team GRAEF competed in resulted in very respectable times of 01:17.0 and 01:17.2. These times were impressive enough to land the team in the championship race in the Jade Division. As we coalesced as one unit with paddles in perfect synchronization, two seconds were shaved off with a time of 01:15.1 in this championship round (two seconds is a big deal in dragon boat competitions!). Final results: Team GRAEF came in 4th place in the division and 12th place overall out of the 38 teams participating. Not too shabby for a group whose previous experience consisted of one brief practice session three days earlier!
Nice weather, lake views and the company of friends and family, what could be better? Of course, winning would have made the day perfect! But what’s better than that is the actualization of passions, skills, and the realization of an interoffice support system. Yeah, we didn’t win first place…but the fact of the matter is we pulled together, gave it our all, and realized the importance of working together as a team! We had a GRAEF time!!