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Sep. 16, 2019
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LLOP news: Park seeks new leader, Dragon Boat Festival

LLOP news
By Jane Harrison

Lengthy transition expected as city seeks new park leader
 
Robyn Lynch, who began a new position as Gainesville’s Tourism Director late last month, expects to continue many of the duties she held as Lake Lanier Olympic Park executive director during a transition process at the park.
 
Lynch, who served as LLOP manager/executive director from July 1, 2017 until Aug. 26 this year, will stay on to oversee the Sept. 7 Hong Kong Atlanta Dragon Boat Festival, traditionally the largest event held at the park. City officials, preparing last month to take applications for the vacant park position, expect a lengthy transition period with Lynch mentoring the new hire.
 
“We’re not in a rush. The main thing is to find the right person,” said Bryan Lackey, Gainesville City Manager. The search team will include members of the Lanier Olympic Park Foundation (formerly Gainesville-Hall ’96) who have invested “a lot of sweat equity” into reviving activities at the former Olympic site. The 35.5 acre park, developed originally for canoe/kayak and rowing events in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, was recently annexed by the city. LLOP became a city-owned park in July and is managed by the Gainesville Parks & Recreation Department. Parks Department Director Kate Mattison will make the final selection on LLOP leadership.
 
Lynch described her new job as hand-in-glove with her previous role at LLOP. “It’s an opportunity for me to promote all of Gainesville,” she said. Her work with regional, national and international teams and organizations bringing regattas and events to LLOP taught her “a lot of what people are looking for when they come to town,” she said.
 
Lackey said he expects Lynch will still “spend a lot of time at the park getting through dragon boat and even when the new person is hired.” He added the city would like to “keep the momentum going” at LLOP. Since the first LLOP manager, Morgan House, was hired in 2014, the park has expanded its culture to include more than the waters sports that created it. Wake board contests, concerts, Food Truck Fridays and the recent Corporate Olympics exemplify diversity at the lakeside venue.
 
LLOP assistant manager James Watson said last month he is considering his future at the park. Lackey described Watson as “a key part of our team out there.”
 
The city’s team at the park includes a full-time maintenance worker during the warm months, Lackey said. The maintenance staff has been observed making regular rounds at recent park events cleaning restrooms and emptying trash receptacles.

Atlanta Dragon Boat Festival set for Sept. 7
By Jane Harrison
 
One of the most colorful, exotic, exciting and delicious events on Lake Lanier paddles into Lake Lanier Olympic Park Sept. 7 when the Hong Kong Atlanta Dragon Boat Festival hits the water and the fills the plaza.
 
Some 80 teams will stroke fast and furiously in long boats on the Olympic channel while fun, food and Asian folk lore rock the grandstands. The event draws thousands for a celebration of cultural diversity and teamwork.
 
“We’ll follow the same basic format that everyone enjoys,” said festival founder and chairman Gene Hanratty, overseeing the 24th festival that has roots in ancient Chinese legend. “It’s a festival of culture,” he added, particularly the opening ceremony. Racing starts at 7:30 a.m. and breaks for the noon ceremony that features the traditional “Dance of the Dragon” and numerous dance and acrobatic acts by brightly costumed performers from Laos, Cambodia, China, and other Asian countries.
 
“We’ll have a full array of food in the food village,” Hanratty said. Asian cooks will fire up grills to serve up “very good, very fresh” morsels and meals, he said. The less adventurous Southern palate can get satiated on down home fare, like ribs and chicken.
 
Most teams hail from the Atlanta area, Hanratty said, adding that more and more teams from the Gainesville area will participate. The event draws numerous teams from corporate Atlanta, including UPS and AT&T. Hanratty noted that for the first time, the local Coca-Cola bottler is a sponsor and Coke’s world headquarters will put a team on the water.
 
The competition takes place in 39-foot boats outfitted with plastic dragon heads and tails and manned by 18-20 paddlers, a drummer and steerer. The sport has grown in popularity since 1976, when Hong Kong introduced the first international races. The races have gained popularity in the U.S. as businesses, clubs, and organizations look to the sport to build teamwork and fitness.
 
 The Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club organizes dragon boat training sessions and hosts its own events at various times during the year, including one coming up Oct. 12. The international sanctioning body for canoe/kayak held its world championship at LLOP in 2018.
 
The local club will not put competitors on board this year, nor is it involved in putting on the races, except for providing steerers and coaches. Hanratty said that even without LCKC’s direct involvement, “we’re in great shape.”
 
“The people of Gainesville stand solidly behind this event. I’m confident we’ll have all the volunteers we need,” he said. “It takes 180 people to fill a whole bunch of positions. Many come back to help in critical positions for years.”
 
Two long time LCKC members are on Hanratty’s festival staff. Past LCKC president Tracy Barth is festival deputy director. Long time LCKC coach Jim O’Dell is the event’s head coach and practice director.
 
LLOP executive director Robyn Lynch, who began work as Gainesville’s tourism director Aug. 26, is expected to continue work at the venue through the festival and beyond. “Dragon boat is an economic driver for our community … this event is important to our community,” Lynch said. She added she expected the festival to run every bit as smooth as it has for 15 years at LLOP.
 
Check out the website www.dragonboatatlanta.com for schedule and results.
 
Dragon Boat Parking:  Off-site parking is at New Haven Church, 615 White Sulfur Rd, Gainesville. Shuttles start at 6:30 a.m. $2 per person. Parking at LLOP is $10.


ACA Sprint Canoe/Kayak National Championships


A paddler from Ikaika Waikiki Yacht Club in Hawaii gets her kayak before racing at the ACA Sprint Canoe/Kayak National Championships at LLOP last month.Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club finished second overall in the national championship, won by the Gig Harbor Canoe & Kayak Club from Washington. The San Diego Canoe & Kayak Team finished third.







Posted online 8.29.19
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