Event Information
Cumberland River Dragon Boat Festival
Riverfront Park
Saturday, Sep 7, 2019 8:00 AM
The 13th Annual Cumberland River Dragon Boat Festival is on! Once again Lightning 100 will be competing down the Cumberland River! This event benefits the Cumberland River Compact, helping to protect and preserve the Cumberland River Watershed.
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Find 20 co-workers, friends, or even strangers, but don’t miss participating in Nashville’s most fun outdoor event. Join teams from all over Nashville for an unforgettable day on the river and compete in a 250-meter race for the title of Grand Champion.

The Cumberland River Dragon Boat Festival celebrates the importance of the Cumberland River to the city of Nashville. The stretch of river downtown once was polluted. Thanks to the work of the Cumberland River Compact and others it has been cleaned up and is a great place to spend the day.

Celebrate the 13th Annual Cumberland River Dragon Boat Festival by registering your own team, joining Lightning 100's Team, or showing up as a spectator! This event benefits the Cumberland River Compact and features DJ music, team rivalry, a river race with Hong Kong style Dragon Boats, vendors and a Beer Garden with finishline viewing! 

When: Saturday, September 7th from 8:00am-4:00pm
Where: East Bank Landing
near the Bridge Building
Cost: Join the Lightning 100 Team for $20!

Trip Leader: Kate Jackson

Difficulty: Paddling experience recommended, but not necessary. Races average 1-2 minutes each, with a maximum of 3 races per team. All teams get the opportunity to practice on the water in an actual Dragon Boat the week before race day.
Registration Deadline: Deadline for Team Lightning is August 16th
Group Size Capacity: Each team may have a total of 24 participants (20 paddlers, 1 drummer, and 3 substitute paddlers)

Parking: Parking is available at LP Field Lot R for free (for participants) or a small fee for spectators.


Children Policy: This is a family-friendly spectator event. Participants must be 18 years or older to race.
Dog Policy: This is a dog-friendly spectator event.
Weather Policy: This is a drizzle or shine event. See official event site for more details on more severe weather policies.
Cancellation Policy: See official race website for Team Cancellation Policy. Participants who register to be part of "Lightning 100's Team Lightning" will not receive refunds for cancellations


According to legend, Dragon Boat racing originated in China more than 2,300 years ago. Chinese history describes the fourth century B.C. as the Warring States period; a time of shifting alliances and treachery.

The patriot and poet Qu Yuan championed political reform and truth as essential to a healthy state. The King, who had fallen under the influence of corrupt ministers, banished his most loyal counselor, Qu Yuan, from the kingdom.

Left to wander the countryside, Qu Yuan composed some of China’s greatest poetry expressing his fervent love and loyalty for his country, and his deep concern for its future. Upon learning of his kingdom’s devastation at the hands of a rival kingdom in 277 B.C., Qu Yuan threw himself into the Mei Lo River.

The people loved Qu Yuan. They raced out in their fishing boats to the middle of the river in a vain attempt to save him. They beat on drums and splashed their oars in the water, trying to keep the fish from his body and ward off evil spirits. To honor his soul and ensure it didn’t go hungry, they scattered rice into the water.

Today, dragon boat races are primarily a form of amusement and fun, while also highlighting the history and culture of this colorful event. Every year, people come together to pay tribute to this fallen statesman by paddling to the beat of their own drum.

The traditional dotting of the Dragon’s eye before dragon boat racing begins awakens the dragon and unleashes its fire, giving boats and their crews the strength of the dragon.


8:00 AM Opening ceremony
8:45 AM Explanation of events of the day and recognition of festival sponsors
9:00 AM  Races begin.  Round 1 of race heats. (Four teams will race approximately every 10 minutes. Official team photos are taken immediately before each team’s first heat.)
11:00 AM Drummer’s parade
11:00 AM Lunch Break
11:45 AM Round 2 of race heats
1:30 PM Standings for final round (Round 3) of race heats posted
1:30 PM Steerer auction for Round 3
1:50 PM Final round (Round 3) of race heats
2:30 PM Award Ceremony (Awards will be presented for race winners and spirit awards, including best-dressed drummer, best-decorated tent, and highest-pledge earner.)

Teams can have up to 20 active paddlers, and 4 "Backup" paddlers. Teams must have at minimum 16 paddlers and at least 8 female paddlers in the boat at the start of each race.


Online Registraiton for Lightning 100's Team is open now, and closes on August 20th.  Registration is limited to the first 24 paddlers to register. The 21 "primary" team slots will be rewarded to teammates who accumulate the most points:

  • 1 point for being a Team Green Dragon Boat Alumni
  • 1 point for attending a "Land Practice" (up to 2 points)
  • 1 point for attending the "Water Practice" (the week of race weekend)
  • 5 points for showing up on time on Race Day!

Participants who sign up to be apart of the Team Lightning must attend our information meeting on August 20th at 6pm, and our in water practice which will be held one night during the week prior to Dragon Boat (September 4th-8th). Please insure your schedule is clear for these dates before registering!


Online registration for Lightning 100's Team ($15/$20) is open now and closes on August 20th. Members may register up to two spots at the member price.