History of the Tacoma Dragon Boat Association

The Tacoma Dragon Boat Association was born out of an effort to spice up the Maritime Fest, an annual Tacoma festival.

Clare Petrich, a Port of Tacoma commissioner and Debbie King, the coordinator of Tacoma’s Sister City Program came up with an idea to add an exhibition dragon boat race to the Maritime Fest program.

With the help of Jimmy Chen, an international ship broker, they found two Taiwanese-built ceremonial dragon boats. Those boats can be seen today outside one of the Port’s warehouse buildings.

At the Maritime Fest in September of 1999 the race occurred. The teams consisted of of Port of Tacoma and City of Tacoma employees. In early 2000 when visitors arrived from Fuzhou, China, one of Tacoma’s sister cities, the race was mentioned informally over lunch and through interpreters. The deputy mayor of Fuzhou said “You should send a team to Fuzhou, we have an annual dragon boat festival.”

One month later the City of Tacoma received a formal letter inviting Tacoma to come to the Fuzhou festival in June. The participants of the exhibition race that was held in Sept 1999 were invited to meet to discuss going to China. By March of 2000 they had 25 wanna-be paddlers and 27 supporters who were frantically preparing to go to Fuzhou in June.

Tacoma sent the largest Sister City delegation ever to attend a Sister City event to race in Fuzhou. While in China the delegation was treated like royalty and returned determined to bring the sport to Tacoma.

By the end of June 2000 they had arranged to create a nonprofit called the Tacoma Dragon Boat Association.