Bruce and Jennifer Gunderson have always enjoyed the outdoors – hiking, canoeing, and biking are high on their list of preferred extracurricular activities. Very recently, they have added a new passion to this list.
“Our first experience with dragon boat racing was during last September’s event on Flathead Lake,” said Gunderson. “We’ve been hooked on this dragon boating ever since.”
The Gundersons have worked to help create the official Flathead Valley dragon boat race team, the Flathead DragonFlies. Their team will compete in Kalispell’s festival this year and also has plans to promote the Flathead Valley’s event by competing in areas such as Lethbridge, Seattle and possibly Denver.
Organized by the Kalispell Convention & Visitor Bureau, the Flathead Valley’s first Dragon Boat competition last fall spurred community interest in the sport. Snappy’s Sport Senter and Flathead Lake Brewing Company both invested in dragon boats used by local teams for training. The challenge is that the boats, measuring 46 feet in length when fully decorated, are difficult to transport. Gunderson and the Flathead DragonFlies were looking for a way to support dragon boat racing in the Flathead Valley when they discovered the immediate need for a Dragon Boat trailer.
“Last year, the boats were transported on a standard boat trailer which worked, but it was very inadequate and a little precarious, not to mention that it was not good for the boats structurally,” explained Gunderson.
Gunderson found a few trailers scattered across Canada and the United States, but they were expensive and would require a lengthy trip with an unstable trailer to relocate them to the Valley. That’s when he approached the Kalispell Convention & Visitor Bureau and Flathead Valley Community College to partner in building a trailer. Mountain West Bank, N.A. sponsored the material cost for the construction, and with the help of Doug Coates, a founding member of the Flathead DragonFlies, and Dave Knoll at Northland Fabrication to help draw up the design plans for the trailer, the project was off and running.
“This was such a group effort,” said Gunderson. “It couldn’t have happened without the willingness of all these partners.”
Last month, faculty and students in the welding and electrical technology programs at FVCC began donating their time to construct the trailer.
“This has been a great project for our students,” said FVCC Director of Career and Technical Education Pete Wade. “The Dragon Boat Festival is not only a great economic driver for the Flathead Valley, but it also provides support for our local non-profit groups. The students get to be a part of this great project, and they are proud of that.”
The hope is to have construction completed soon so local teams can begin to transport the boats for practices. Rob Brisendine at the Kalispell Convention & Visitor Bureau said the trailer will help improve the event’s operational logistics which will translate into cost savings.
“Having the trailer will help this summer when demand for practices is elevated,” said Brisendine. “The intent is to be able to easily transport the boats to different bodies of water where the teams will be organizing practices.”
The trailer, which will be owned by the Kalispell Convention & Visitor Bureau, will hold and transport two boats at a time.
“Our team’s goal is to generate more excitement around the Valley for Dragon Boat racing,” said Gunderson. “It’s been fun and exciting to watch this project come together,”
For more information about the project, contact Katie Fries at 756-3668. For information about the Dragon Boat Festival visit www.montanadragonboat.com.