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Draggin'? Not these paddlers! Dragon Boats returning to Lake Superior

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If you've never seen fire-breathing reptiles race across Lake Superior, this weekend will bring your chance.

OK, it might only be the competition that's fiery and the reptiles might actually be oversized canoes ... but there definitely will be some racing at the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival that gets underway Friday evening at Barker's Island.

But when the paddlers gather for this year's festival, one of the strongest among them will be missing.

19-year-old Kasey Slocum of Superior, Wisconsin, is part of Team USA at the World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

Slocum is paddling with the Under-24 women's team competing in Welland, Ontario.

Her coach tells the News Tribune Slocum is a natural in a dragon boat and needed only minimal instruction after joining the 21-member crews that propel the boats.

Being in top physical condition is essential for success in dragon boat racing, but Slocum tells the newspaper it also takes the right technique and a good sense of rhythm.

The International Dragon Boat Federation was formed in 1991 and organizes the championship event where Slocum is competing. The tradition of dragon boats is a little older, though – having started in southern China 2,000 years ago, the group says.

The Welland Tribune reports thousands of athletes have gathered for the world championships – with the Australian contingent alone numbering 317.

You can watch a live stream of the competition here.

Meanwhile, at Barker's Island this weekend's festival will be raising funds for Twin Ports Rotary Clubs and for the Essentia Health Foundation. And maybe even raising a little fire on Lake Superior.

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Roughly 2,000 people on more than 100 teams competed in the weekend's dragon boat races put on by the Twin Ports Rotary Clubs. By noon on Saturday, this year's festival had already raised $60,000, the Duluth News Tribune reports.