Dragon boats will be in the water again in 2020, announces United Way of South Mississippi.

The fifth annual Gulf Coast Dragon Boat Festival, a key fundraiser for UWSM, will be held at The Dock on Seaway Road in Gulfport on Saturday, June 13, 2020.

Race participants and sponsors are encouraged to sign up early. Both participant and non-participant sponsorship levels are available. A team sponsorship costs $1,600 for businesses and $1,300 for nonprofit organizations. A sponsorship packet can be downloaded at www.uwdragonboat.com.

Volunteer opportunities are also available, and anyone interested in volunteering can contact Kellee Caldwell, director of volunteers and special projects, at kcaldwell@unitedwaysm.org.

During the festival, teams, consisting of employees from businesses and nonprofits, race in 46-foot-long boats to the finish line in various heats. Teams consist of 20 paddlers, a cox who steers the dragon boat from the rear and a drummer who sits at the front.

The festival will also feature live entertainment, a crawfish boil, activities for children and other fun, said UWSM CEO Kathy Springer.

“We are encouraging people to save the Dragon Boat Festival date, and we are asking local businesses or nonprofits to consider a sponsorship,” said Springer. “The festival is fun for the entire family, and it helps us do so many great things in the community.”

Festival proceeds directly benefit UWSM, which seeks to improve the health, education and financial stability of all people in Hancock, Harrison, Pearl River and Stone counties.

In July, UWSM awarded $650,000 in community impact grants to 11 area nonprofits, which help fund programs like Project Learn at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast, the mobile food pantry program at Feeding the Gulf Coast and the children’s program at the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence.

UWSM also operates PreK4Ward, which offers free preschool to 140 children; savings programs, including the FamilyWize prescription discount card and free tax preparation services; Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which delivers one book each month to children from birth to age 5; United Way Readers, which pairs adult volunteers with children to provide reading practice; and the Little Free Library program, which promotes neighborhood book exchanges through free public bookcases.

For more information on the festival, contact Bailey Waltman, Director of Marketing and Communications, at (228) 896-2213 or at bwaltman@unitedwaysm.org

The festival website is www.uwdragonboat.com.