SEF's Dragon Boat Festival
SPARTA. It was a perfect, sunshiny day for the Sparta Dragon Boat Festival on Sunday, May 19. The annual fun-filled event on Lake Mohawk benefits the Sparta Education Foundation.

Team Wonka Boat Tours finishes strong on Sunday's race.

Sunshine greeted dragon boat teams and hundreds of spectators at the Sparta Education Foundation’s Fifth Annual Sparta Dragon Boat Festival on Sunday, May 19. Paddlers competed on Lake Mohawk in separate heats throughout the day, some in themed costumes, making this high-energy event as much fun for spectators as it was for the paddlers. Winning teams included first place Gold medals to SA American Muscle; Silver medals were given to RDA Fitness and Bronze medals went to Crossfit Skylands. A highly-anticipated local event, the Sparta Dragon Boat Festival is a fundraiser for Sparta’s public schools.
Crowds along the boardwalk enjoyed a prime view of the Dragon Boat races as well as access to food, drinks, music and a raffle for a paddleboard donated by Pelican Shops which was won by Drew Garger. The day began when Sparta School District’s Assistant Supervisor Patrick McQueeney participated in the Dotting the Dragon Eye ceremony, a ritual that goes back to the ancient days of Dragon Boat Racing in Asia. The national anthem was sung by Natalie Torres, a sixth-grader from Sparta Middle School, then the first teams hit the water around 9am.
The day’s boating theme was reflected in many of the team names which included Blazing Paddles, Dragon R Boat, Water Warriors and That’s How We Row. Dragon Boat Races were held in 46-foot long boats, and teams competed in 250 meter heats. Each team was comprised of 20 paddlers and one drummer. A steersman was provided by Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing. Each team received on-water practice session with a trained coach/steersperson prior to race day and every team competed in at least two heats on Sunday during the morning and afternoon rounds. A full staff of Lake Mohawk lifeguards and the Lake Mohawk Marine Patrol were on hand to attend to water safety.
For the fourth year in a row, the 2019 Dragon Boat Festival’s Platinum Sponsor was Atlantic Health System/Newton Medical Center. This year’s Gold Sponsors were Fogarty & Hara Counsellors at Law and Lake Mohawk Country Club. The Leaderboard Sponsor was Wellness Pediatrics. Silver Sponsors were Villa Capri II, Pelican Shops, Lakeland Bank, Gallagher Insurance/Risk Management/Consulting and Nisivoccia LLP Certified Public Accountants and Advisors.
“This is such a great event and it’s become something that the entire Sparta community really looks forward to,” said Donna West, President of the Sparta Education Foundation. “We are so grateful to our sponsors, participants, the many volunteers who lent a hand, the Lake Mohawk Country Club for providing us with such a spectacular venue, and the country club staff members who have been so helpful in the planning the Sparta Dragon Boat Festival with our event co-chairs Nancy Purnell and Andy Garger. This event reflects Sparta pride, and the real winners are the students in Sparta’s public schools who will benefit from future educational grants as a result of the Sparta Dragon Boat Festival.” Visit to learn more about this event, see the 2019 photo gallery or make a donation to the Sparta Education Foundation.
Since 2006, the Sparta Education Foundation has funded over $1,026,600 in grants to all five of Sparta’s public schools. The Foundation is an all-volunteer, independent 501 (c) (3) NJ Non-Profit Corporation whose mission is to engage the entire community in philanthropic giving. Visit for more information about joining or volunteering.