This past weekend, video maven Eva Sollberger and I unchained ourselves from our desks here at Seven Days to participate in the Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival. We were rowing as a part of the Cabot Community Celebrity team — a crew put together by the good folks at Cabot Creamery. This means we are important people.
Now, you might be wondering what, in fact, a community celebrity actually is. Well, I'll tell you. It's basically a cross between a Hollywood D-lister and a local planning and zoning board member. We all have big egos and little clout. I kid. I'm really just talking about myself.
Anyway, our merry band of VIPs included Spandexed scribe Chris Bohjalian, the Flying Tomato's steezy snowboard coach Bud Keene and a smattering of local television personalities. Our goal was to crush all the other RP teams (real people, not celebrities) and take home every trophy, cup or silver salver we could get our hands on.
Before our first race Sunday morning, team drummer/choreographer Taryn Noelle attempted to teach us a chant to the tune of Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)." It went something like this: "Row, row, row, row, row, row, row, row, row, row, row, row/Row, row, row, row, row, row, row, row, row, row, row, row/If you like it than you shoulda put some cheese on it/If you like it than you shoulda put some cheese on it..." Needless to say, those of us in the boat with two X chromosomes quite enjoyed the tune. Those crew members of the male persuasion were less psyched about Noelle's fromage homage to Mizz Knowles.
VIPees practicing for the dance-off.
Once we got the chant and corresponding dance moves down, we were ready to face the Spirit Judges. Unbeknownst to me, all the teams are judged on their flair and spunk. Had I been aware of this most essential part of the day, I would have dressed more festively. A sparkly unitard, perhaps.
It turns out, we didn't need me to wear a unitard to win. We crushed the spirit competition and took home the award for Best Team Dance Moves. Noelle and I are now planning the team's debut on the next season of "America's Next Best Dance Crew."
After a brief warm-up led by a Canadian fella with calves the size of spiral hams, we hit the lake for our first race. It was a breeze, despite the near-hurricane-force winds that chopped up the water so bad our 20-person boat was nearly swallowed by the swells. We annihilated boats from Merchants Bank, Essex Rescue, Danforth Pewter and the Burlington Free Press. We may have false-started, but we still won convincingly.
Upon our return to the dock, small children on the shore screamed "Cheaters!" at us they threw stones in our general direction. Haters. I viewed their rock-throwing as a teachable moment and told the young scofflaws that winners never cheat, cheaters never win and Santa is always watching. I'm sure that shut them up.
It's more like "Stuck in a Boat" than "Stuck in Vermont" for Eva.
Heading into our second race, we were intoxicated with the sweet smell of victory and deli sandwiches (graciously provided by the swell humans at Cabot). But this time our competition was somewhat more formidable. We were up against a crew of masked, caped Super Friends, as well as some no-nonsense architects and a clan of Brian Dubie supporters, which included, not coincidentally, the Doob himself.
The Doob's boat was pretty stacked with young, virile Republicans. I wonder now if he didn't promise high-profile positions in his future administration to paddlers who would row him to victory. How else could their stellar showing be explained?
Sadly, we didn't win this race. The Doob pipped us at the line. Personally, I feel like I failed my quasi-famous boatmates. About halfway through the 300-meter race, I bonked. No matter how many Monica Seles-esque grunts I gave, I couldn't step it up. My arms were jelly. I practically collapsed in the lap of my fellow stroker, Bridget Butler — Bird Diva. Luckily, she was too busy making duck calls to notice.
But despite our poor placing, our time was good enough to get us in the top 25. Heck yeah! We're not microcelebrities for nothing!
Our final race of the day was for the Pewter Cup, which was not really made from pewter, but gold-colored plastic. In this race, we faced the Super Friends again, as well as a team from Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, the festival's beneficiary. While we hauled ass, we didn't have enough in the tank to beat Draggin' for a Cure, which beat us by seven-tenths of a second.
While I can't speak for my fellow Cabot Celebricheese (eeew, so bad), I can say that I left it all on the boat, including a little bit of dignity and a pinch of self-esteem. But I suppose we are all winners, if for the simple fact that we participated and have the participants' medals to prove it. Oh, and we have the best dance moves. That's something the Doob's boat can never touch.
Of the 78 teams competing for the title of most awesome dragon boaters, here are the real winners:
1st: Connor Contracting "Connor Crew"
2nd: Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center "Swashbucklers"
3rd: NRG Systems "Wind Dragons"
4th: Hinesburg's "Draggin' R Hineys"
5th: Goodrich Corporation "Sync or Swim"