Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Dragons & Drafts 

The Burning River and Dragon Boat Fest lights up the river -- and attendees.


Mark Silverstein doesn't want to find another human arm floating in the Cuyahoga River. That's what happened a couple of years ago, when he and his rowing buddies were paddling upstream. That does it, the director of the Western Reserve Rowing Foundation said to himself. This water needs a good cleaning.

That's why Silverstein, along with fellow environmentalist Pat Conway of the Great Lakes Brewing Company, organized the Burning River and Dragon Boat Fest, an awareness-raising day of Chinese boat racing and partying at the Great Lakes brewery. Twenty crews of 22 rowers each will participate in the races, paddling ornately carved, 44-foot-long boats with colorfully painted dragon heads and tails attached to the bow head and stern. The 500-meter race course, running through the Flats near the mouth of the Cuyahoga, takes about four minutes to complete. After the races, crews and spectators portage up to Great Lakes for the best beer in town, along with an awards ceremony, environmentalist talk, and live music by Changeling, Bolo Deluxe, and the Joe Rohan Band.

Cleveland is not alone in responding to the fest's unique appeal: Dragon boat races are already wildly popular in backwoods Canada, where as many as 250 crews have competed for national championships. (Afterward, of course, they have only Canadian beer to drink.) If it works there, Silverstein says, it can work on the industry-weathered waters of Cleveland. "I really believe we've got to take ownership of the [Cuyahoga] River," he says. "We want to be the group that says, 'Hey, look. This is a great river for rowing.' Then we have a beer afterwards."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Speaking of Highlights

More by Cris Glaser

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 17, 2021

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation