Paddlers prepare for 3rd annual Dragon Boat Festival in Eau Clai - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Paddlers prepare for 3rd annual Dragon Boat Festival in Eau Claire

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - If you go out on Half Moon Lake Saturday, be on the look out for a species not native to Eau Claire.

That's because it is the third annual Dragon Boat Festival, which raises money for Mayo Clinic Health System's hospice program. 

In 2016, the event raised more than $200,000, and they hope to do the same this year.

Friday was just practice, but Saturday 46 teams, made up of more than 700 people, will compete to win the race across the lake, but it is the cause that keeps people coming back.

"When you look at hospice care, it's just amazing how they all come together, and work together so seamlessly, and it's kind of like that with a dragon boat," nurse Joni Gilles said. "All of the paddlers have to be in sync when they paddle the boat for the boat to go forward, and that's kind of how it is with hospice care. The doctors, the nurses, the therapists, the social workers all have to be together on the same page."

A member of the United States national dragon boat team, Jarrett Williams, is in town to help paddlers steer straight while promoting the sport.

"Every time I coach a team, I ask the team always who's done it before? I love when people haven't raiser their hands because that means the sport is growing, and as coaches that's our job," Williams said.

The event starts Saturday at 9 a.m. It is free to watch, but donations are accepted. 

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