A popular Northwest Montana summertime event won't be taking place this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce has announced that the 9th annual Montana Dragon Boat Festival -- which was set for Bigfork Bay on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 -- has been postponed.
Organizers note that registration -- which generally opens in early spring -- was delayed due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions. There was also the uncertainty that the event, which requires teams of 20 to sit in a narrow boat for extended periods, would be able to meet whatever the state guidelines may be in September, according to a news release.
The event committee also looked at whether or not teams would be willing and able to attend. The event’s sponsors have also been financially impacted due to coronavirus closures.
“We know that many of them would still have been happy to sponsor the Dragon Boat Festival, but we did not feel this was the year to ask our business community for money," Bigfork Area Chamber director Rebekah King explained.
The event also requires the services of Elemental Dragon Boats, a professional dragon boat race directing team from Canada. The border between the US and Canada is currently closed.
“It became a question of when the border will reopen and if the members of the Elemental crew would be comfortable coming down. The decision to cancel made itself when the uncertainty of Elemental's involvement came up. The event relies heavily on their presence and professionalism,” said King.
Organizers and local teams are still looking for a way to mark the now postponed September event. There have been discussions of the Flathead Dragonflies hosting a clinic that weekend, possible virtual races, or a one-day practice event to bring paddlers together, according to a news release.
“It is important to keep interest in the festival and the sport of dragon boat racing growing in the Flathead Valley,” said Alida Tinch with the Flathead Dragonflies.
The Flathead Dragonflies will begin practicing soon and invite anyone interested to join them. The team can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org or look for announcements on their Facebook page.