Area residents are invited to watch paddlers and boat lovers take to the scenic waters of MiraBay lagoon Saturday as the community kicks off its first Dragon Boat Festival.
About 20 customized boats, each manned by a crew of 20 paddlers, a steers person and drummer, are expected to participate in the race, which will include three, 400-meter heats and a 2,000-meter finale.
"Dragon boat racing is a great family event," said MiraBay resident Ed Nordstrom, who organized the MiraBay Dragon Boat Club team. "It's relatively new to Tampa Bay; it's fun to watch; and it's a relaxing, casual way for spectators to spend the afternoon. And MiraBay is a great venue."
The competition is a "premier mix race," which means eight of the paddlers must be women, Nordstrom said.
The festival is a first for MiraBay, said Linda McMorrow, the community's marketing manager.
"We've never done anything like this before," she said. "Depending on the participation and turnout, this could become an annual event."
Festival-goers will be seated under a spectators' tent to watch the races, which begin at 9 a.m. and take place just past the welcome center at 205 Manns Harbor Drive. Signs will be posted directing people to the site.
The event will include a DJ, food, drinks and commemorative T-shirt sales and a bounce house for small children. Admission is free.