“Very exciting:” Milwaukee’s 4th annual Dragon Boat Festival celebrates teams, culture & diversity

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MILWAUKEE -- It's a Milwaukee festival with humble beginnings, but in just a few years the Dragon Boat Festival has grown faster than anyone ever expected.

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival

"It's always very exciting to see the boats in the water in action," said Tiger Fan, Youth Leadership Academy.

Once word got out it did not take long for Milwaukee's Dragon Boat Festival to jump in popularity.

"I just think it's very cool to watch this whole thing blow up," said Fan.

And of course the marquee event of a festival celebrating Chinese culture is the dramatic water racing.

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival

"When you're watching it on land it doesn't look that bad, but when you're actually in the boat it really puts a strain on your arms," said Fan.

Teams of 20 pile into the long, narrow crafts, then power their way down a 250-meter straight-track lagoon.

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival

"Oh my, I was shaking! Weren't you guys shaking? The adrenaline was running, I am still shaking," said Punita Chawda, Rockwell Automation.

Teams come from all over the Midwest.

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival

"It's not only a sporting event, it's really an event celebrating teams, culture and diversity," said Sharon Chen, Rockwell Automation.

Milwaukee's Dragon Boat Festival may only be four years old, but the tradition has been around for centuries.

"Around like 2,000 years ago, it was during the Warring States Period," said April Fan, Youth Leadership Academy.

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival

Only 14 teams raced during the festival's first year in Milwaukee, and four years later more than 50 teams have registered this weekend.

"People are so passionate about volunteering, so passionate about sharing our culture or diversity with the community -- so that's why this event is growing so fast," said Chen.

The main sponsor of the Dragon Boat Festival is the Milwaukee Chinese Community Center. Proceeds from Saturday's event will go toward the Ronald McDonald House of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival