Racers raised money for area schools, and a group of local students and teachers established a budding dynasty at the Second Annual Blount County Dragon Boat Festival at Tellico Marina Saturday.

The festival, which features boat racing, music, food and games, is a fundraiser for Blount County Education Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides funding for Blount County schools, in particular to meet the institutions’ technology needs.

The festival featured boat races involving 25 teams, including representatives from BCEF schools and sponsors alike. The competitors raced so-called “dragon boats” — long, human-powered watercraft modeled after traditional Chinese boats — in heats, culminating with a single winner being crowned after a day of racing.

“It’s an opportunity for the schools and sponsors to get together, have a friendly competition and socialize,” said BCEF treasurer Robert Morris. “It’s a good time for everyone and a good way to kick off the school year.”

The day’s winner was a team from Union Grove Middle School. This marks the second year in a row that Union Grove has claimed the festival’s boat-racing title.

Though they didn’t win the race, Y-12 Federal Credit Union was recognized for raising the most money of all the event sponsors, at $1,600.

Of course, the real winners for the day were area schools. All told, Morris said the event raised $18,000, a substantial increase over last year’s $12,000 total.

“This only being the second year, we’re really looking forward to growing this,” he said. “It’s always a lot of fun.

“The competitive streaks come out sometimes. But in the end, everyone knows that it’s all for the kids.”

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