By Jim Newell
ORION LAKE — The Dragon on the Lake Festival is one of the signature events of the Orion region and the largest festival in the village.
And when the four-day event returns on Thursday, organizers say guests will see DOTL return to its pre-pandemic glory.
The festival will feature its usual activities – dragon boat races, vendors, children’s area, musical performances and beer tent – as well as a new student-athlete dragon boat competition between the schools’ sports teams. local secondary.
Orion Art Center Board Chair Amy Cole said she was especially excited about the new student-athlete dragon boat races.
“I wanted to have that high school spirit in the festival. We have a lot of local high schools, there are a lot of competitions going on every year, so I thought ‘Can we get them together and have them compete and unite at the same time?’
The Lake Orion, Oxford, Rochester Adams, Stoney Creek and Rochester High School football teams and the Lake Orion High School track team will race dragon boats in the first annual Dragon Boat Races for student-athletes.
The festivities will begin with the opening ceremony at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at Green’s Park on the M-24. There will be a flower ceremony in honor of the victims of the Oxford tragedy, the races from 3pm to 5pm and a closing ceremony with prize giving around 5.30pm.
After the tragedy at Oxford High School last November, Cole hoped the event would pay tribute to students.
“We will honor all those who have been lost, injured and are still healing. So today is all about showing that continued love and support,” Cole said. “We can unite, support, honor and reflect. The Art Center offered a few art healing events and we had an overwhelming response. We still have students asking for more time, more events. So the school component kind of came together.
Tony Annese, head football coach at Ferris State University, will speak at the opening ceremonies for the student-athlete races.
“Which is a really big deal for football players and coaches,” Cole said.
“It became, I would say, the biggest event on Lake Orion. Although we have many great events here,” said Art Center Vice President Hank Lorant. “It’s the main fundraiser for the Art Center and the community loves it, we love it.”
The festival will feature more than 60 vendors lining Broadway and Flint streets throughout the festival. Many vendors were initially hesitant about safety and public participation after a few years of decline during the pandemic, Cole said.
“That response has also been great. When they see the community start to come out and reach this new level every year, they come back. Personally, as an artist, we know the community is ready to see us again. So, sellers increased significantly from last year,” said Cole.
The parade of lighted boats begins at 8:30 p.m. Friday. You can see the parade of boats from Green’s Park on Lapeer Road, just south of Flint Street.
Festival activities also include the Tiki Tent, the Kidz Zone from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and the always inspiring Chalk Art Challenge on Saturday and Sunday.
A schedule of Kidz Zone activities and parking locations is available at dragononthelake.com.
Dragon boat races
The traditional dragon boat races begin at 9:45 a.m. Sunday at Green’s Park with the opening ceremonies. Teams will compete throughout the day for the coveted Dragon Trophy.
A flower ceremony to celebrate the lives of cancer survivors, offer hope to those still battling the disease, and honor those who have lost their battle begins around 12:15 p.m.
The Dragon Pub opens at 4 p.m. Thursday and will feature performances by the band Free Lance starting at 7 p.m.
On Fridays, the pub opens at 4 p.m. and features 80s rock tribute band Sunset Blvd at 8 p.m. On Saturdays, fan favorites Square Pegz perform classic ’80s rock at 8 p.m.
The Dragon Pub closes at 5 p.m. on Sunday with the Dragon Boat Races prize giving and Dragon Trophy for the winner of the race.
“From our perspective, this event is our big thank you and our offering (to the community),” Cole said. “We work with other local nonprofits, whether it’s Rotary with the Dragon Boat Races or the American Legion with the band and the Dragon Pub. This is our biggest fundraiser. This will help (the Art Center) easily through nine months of our operating expenses.
“But it’s more about rebuilding that sense of community. For us, it’s about getting a little bit better every year,” Cole said.
Online: dragononthelake.com, orionartcenter.org.
By Jim Newell