Sara Brown

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Dragon Boat Festival Bringing Out the Best in Blue Island

Blue Island, Illinois – May 9, 2017 – Dragon Boat racing is a sport where teamwork and synchronization are by far the largest contributors to your team’s success. So perhaps it’s not too surprising that a similar collaborative spirit has emerged in Blue Island, as the historic south side city prepares to host the Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival on June 3.


“We had a dream to move this festival to the MWRD Waterfall park in Blue Island,” says Kevin Brown, festival organizer and community advocate. “It’s an incredible spot for events; close to public transportation and both entertainment districts in town. But nobody had ever held anything there before. We needed permitting and approval from quite a few entities, not to mention the massive amount of clean-up necessary to get the site festival-ready.”


But a beautiful thing happened in Blue Island. Lots of beautiful things. Turns out the Browns weren’t the only ones hoping to show off their hometown’s portion of the forthcoming Cal-Sag Trail and MWRD’s success in massively improving the canal’s water quality. Not only did Brown get the approvals he needed from the City of Blue Island and MWRD to host the Dragon Boat festival at the location, he also started getting offers of help – lots of them, from Chicago Southland CVB, Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail, Friends of The Chicago River — to make it happen in the biggest and best way possible. Everyone seemed to just “get it,” says Brown. “At every level.”


“The Chicago Area Waterway System has been synonymous with the MWRD since our founding in 1889, so it’s great to see communities like Blue Island interacting with this often-times forgotten treasure,” says MWRD Executive Director David St. Pierre. “I encourage everyone to come on down to enjoy exciting activities like the dragon boat races and interact with our waterway.”


St. Pierre doesn’t just talk the talk. He’ll be showcasing the ultimate interaction with the Cal-Sag as a participant in the Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail Plunge, a beloved annual fundraiser culminating with community leaders, activists, and other brave souls keeping their pledge to donors and jumping in to the Cal-Sag. The “Plunge” will take place at noon during a break in the dragon boat races.


“We’re proud to partner with the Browns, our businesses, organizations, officials and residents to make events like this happen in Blue Island,” says City of Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas. “We’re all pulling from the same end of the rope, and by combining our efforts, we’re able to shine an even brighter spotlight on all the things that make Blue Island special.”


And the huge job of getting the grounds ready to host 15 twenty-one person teams of dragon boat paddlers and hundreds of area craft beer lovers and food enthusiasts? That’s happening too, with a lot of help from the City, MWRD, and Friends of the Chicago River, who’re facilitating a volunteer clean-up effort at the park and adjacent lots on May 13th as part of their annual Chicago River Day celebration.


Brown is co-captaining the event with Monica Giermak, Water Resources Specialist with Christopher B. Burke Engineering.


“I can’t say enough about the residents, business owners, elected officials, and clubs and organizations in town and all over the south side, and their commitment to community activism,” says Brown. “We’re comprised of so many diverse backgrounds, experiences, religious beliefs, and ethnicities in Blue Island, but inside, our hearts are all blue.”


Interested volunteers for Blue Island’s Chicago River Day clean-up effort at the MWRD Waterfall Park/SEPA Station can find more information here:


Team and individual paddler registration for the 2017 Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival can be found on the festival’s website,


About The Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival


The 2nd Annual Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival is taking place June 3, 2017 at the MWRD Waterfall Park/SEPA Station #3 in Blue Island. The festival includes dragon boat races, Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail Plunge, craft beer village featuring the Southland’s best food and craft beer, music from south side favorites “These Old Men They Play Records,” and an after party at the Blue Island Beer Company. More information can be found at