Fate of Montana Dragon Boat Festival 2022 is Unknown

The Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce has not made a decision to host the 2022 event.  The Montana Dragon Boat committee is in frequent communication with Elemental Dragon Boats, our race directors, to determine if a 2022 event is possible.  The Montana Dragon Boat Festival relies heavily on the Canadian border being open and accessible.  An official decision will be made April 14th.


The Flathead Dragonflies will begin practicing soon and invite anyone interested to join them. The team can be contacted via email flatheaddragonflies@gmail.com or look for announcements on their Facebook page. Their practices, along with any other dragon boat related activities, will also be posted on the event calendar on Bigfork.org.




The traditional Hong Kong style dragon boats used in our festival are 46-feet long, with 10 seats and 20 people. A drum seat in front of the first two paddlers (seated beside each other) holds a drummer – you want the smallest, loudest, most rhythmic person you can find. A steerer guides the boat with the steering oar in back. These 22 people make up a dragon boat team.

Once you and your  team pick up paddles, you’ll love dragon boat racing.  You’ll thrive on the adrenaline and the teamwork in the boat.  People who never thought of themselves as athletes often perform well in the sport of dragon boat racing which requires that paddlers, drummer and steersperson work in unison to cross the finish line.

The dragon boat stroke is unlike any other (the most similar is outrigger canoe) – the rudiments of which can be quickly learned during practice. Every paddler plays a specific role. They sit next to each other, and against the gunnel to balance the boat as they paddle. The strokers occupy the front three seats of the boat, while the fourth seat is a transition place where, ideally, the paddlers have rhythm and power. The next few rows are the “engine room,” where the largest and strongest team members sit. The last four rows of the boat are filled with strong paddlers who are also typically shorter and able to paddle faster. They’re considered “rockets,” because the water scooped back by the paddlers in front is moving faster for them. The paddlers are taught to watch up the middle of the boat and two seats across – and sync with the actions of that paddler. The drummer keeps the rhythm for everyone.

Dragon boating is a very visual sport, and if everyone is synchronized, magic can happen in the boat. Teams have to follow the strategy, and then execute: the team members in the front must paddle in perfect timing as an example for the back half of the boat. When the power from the middle is mixed with the speed and capabilities of the paddlers in the back, a dragon boat can glide quickly through the water like a bullet.

Whether you want to win the race, or win your lane – bring your team to the start line!  Festival teams look to co-workers, friends, spouses, church members, civic leaders, customers, neighbors, and others to fill a team of 20 paddlers and a drummer.  An experienced steerer, boats, paddles and life jackets will be provided.  There’s a reason dragon boating is the fastest growing water sport – and no reason you shouldn’t get involved.  Jump on board and make waves!

Register your team here



According to legend, Dragon Boat racing originated in China more than 2,300 years ago. Chinese history describes the fourth century B.C. as the Warring States period; a time of shifting alliances and treachery.  The patriot and poet Qu Yuan championed political reform and truth as essential to a healthy state. The King, who had fallen under the influence of corrupt ministers, banished his most loyal counselor, Qu Yuan, from the kingdom.

Left to wander the countryside, Qu Yuan composed some of Chinas greatest poetry expressing his fervent love and loyalty for his country, and his deep concern for its future. Upon learning of his kingdoms devastation at the hands of a rival kingdom in 277 B.C., Qu Yuan threw himself into the Mei Lo River.

The people loved Qu Yuan. They raced out in their fishing boats to the middle of the river in a vain attempt to save him. They beat on drums and splashed their oars in the water, trying to keep the fish from his body and ward off evil spirits. To honor his soul and ensure it didn’t go hungry, they scattered rice into the water.

Today, dragon boat races are primarily a form of amusement and fun, while also highlighting the history and culture of this colorful event. Every year, people come together to pay tribute to this fallen statesman by paddling to the beat of their own drum.

The Montana festival starts with the traditional dotting of the Dragons eye before racing begins which awakens the dragon and unleashes its fire, giving boats and their crews the strength of the dragon.

Join Us


Volunteer – we love our volunteers! Help is needed in team loading, marshaling, score running, the information booth, spectator surveys, volunteer support and many other areas. For information on volunteering, contact Rebekah King at 406-837-5888 or chamber@bigfork.org.

Sponsor – become a Dragon Boat Sponsor. Join the growing number of businesses and organizations that support the Montana Dragon Boat Festival each year. Contact Rebekah King at 406-837-5888 or chamber@bigfork.org.

Join a Team – whether it’s as a paddler, drummer or captain, find your inner dragon and get on a team.  No experience is necessary and we provide the boats. Register your team here.

Come and Watch – the Festival offers a whole weekend of activities for paddlers and spectators. Enjoy music, entertainment, local food, beverages and kids’ activities on the shoreline of spectacular Flathead Lake, the largest fresh-water lake west of the Mississippi.

Want to get involved? Contact us:
Bigfork Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 237
Bigfork, MT 59911