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St. Charles aldermen support extra funding to bring back dragon boat races

Dragon Boat RaceJohn Starks, Staff Photographer | Daily Herald

St. Charles aldermen supported a $22,000 funding request from the Pride of the Fox organization, which intends to reinstate the popular dragon boat races during this year's Heart of the Fox fundraising event.

Dragon boat races on the Fox River are expected to make a comeback in St. Charles this summer amid plans to broaden the scope of the Heart of the Fox fundraising event.

The Pride of the Fox organization has requested $22,000 in hotel/motel tax revenue from the city, the bulk of which would go toward increasing its sponsorship of Heart of the Fox activities and coordinating the return of the popular dragon boat races.

St. Charles aldermen voted Monday to support fulfilling the funding request. Though funneled through a separate entity, Heart of the Fox leaders say the money will help enhance and draw larger crowds to their June 13 event at Pottawatomie Park.

A prior event, known as both RiverFest and the Festival of the Fox, was hosted by the Pride of the Fox organization for years until the downtown event was discontinued in 2018. That also meant the end of the dragon boat races, which regularly attracted hundreds of spectators.

The same year, the River Corridor Foundation partnered with the St. Charles Kiwanis Club to put on a new fundraiser encompassing a 5K race, a color run and a tug of war competition. Heart of the Fox organizers have since added more family-friendly features and continued looking for ways to reach a wider audience.

Bringing the dragon boat races back to the city is a surefire way to achieve that goal, event organizer John Rabchuk said.

Though Pride of the Fox will spearhead the efforts, the ancient Chinese competition will remain under the Heart of the Fox umbrella, he said. It will be the only activity to take place both Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14.

"This has always been a very popular event in St. Charles ... and certainly falls in line with our 'Family Fun Along the River' theme," Rabchuk said. "We think it's going to be a big deal."

Other new Heart of the Fox activities include an inflatable "ninja obstacle course" with a 20-foot climbing wall, as well as a health and wellness fair put on by the Chamber of Commerce, Rabchuk said. The 5K run also has a new course along the Fox River Trail.

The tug of war tournament will not be on the schedule due to a lack of participation in the past, he said.

City code allows Pride of the Fox to receive an annual allocation of $27,000 in hotel/motel tax revenue. Last year, the city's total contribution toward the organization was $7,000, a large portion of which was used to sponsor the Heart of the Fox 5K and color run.

That partnership "has allowed us to create a synergistic relationship, ensuring our ability to bring back the dragon boat races and further support Heart of the Fox," Pride of the Fox leaders said in a memo.

The city council approved including the organization's $22,000 funding request in its 2020-21 budget, with one abstention from Alderman Ed Bessner, who serves as the group's president. The contribution is also expected to cover some Pride of the Fox operating expenses and various fees, according to city documents.

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