The month of May wouldn't be the same in Charleston without the Charleston Dragon Boat Festival, which will be 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at Brittlebank Park, and its balance between celebration and somber remembrance.
In its seventh year, the festival is drawing 1,600 paddlers and 67 teams, some of which are regulars who have developed rivalries in both racing and raising money.
The event raises money to support wellness programs for the cancer survivors who paddle with Dragon Boat Charleston.
This year's fundraising goal is $140,000. As of Monday, $64,000 was pledged with perennial power, the Folly Beach Wahines leading with about $4,000. The James Island Vi-Queens, an off-shoot of another perennial, the James Island Vikings, were close behind with $3,600.
While the teams for Saturday are set, the festival is always entertaining to watch, as many teams wear themed costumes and decorate team tents at the park.
"It is fun to watch the races and festivities. Everyone is in crazy costumes and there is a lot to watch. There is a margarita tent and food trucks," says festival spokeswoman Meagan Labriola, noting that the Survivor Ceremony is at 10:30 a.m.
Labriola expects about 6,000 spectators to come to Brittlebank over the course of the day to watch the event, which is free to see.
The ancient Chinese sport of dragon boating involves 20 paddlers sitting two per row in a 48-foot wooden boat adorned with a dragon head and tail. A coxman pounds out the stroke rate on a drum mounted in the front as the boat battles to stay on course with the help of a steering person working a long oar mounted in the stern of the boat.
The Race the Landing 5K series returns to the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site today, with kids races starting at 6:15 p.m. and the adult 5K at 7 p.m.
Other dates for the Thursday evening series are May 8, June 5 and 12, and July 10. The fee for the adult 5K is $30-$35, or $105 for all five races. For kids, it's $10-$12 per race.
The fees include food, beverages, awards, live music, commemorative gifts and door prizes. The event raises money for The Friends of Charles Towne Landing, a nonprofit whose mission is to support the programming of the site.
The local kickoff for National Bike Month starts promptly at 5:30 p.m. today with the fourth annual Green Heart Project Harvest Dinner at Mitchell Elementary School. The dinner, which incorporates food grown at the garden, costs $20.
Green Heart is working with Charleston Moves to encourage attendees to ride bikes to and from the event, not only to be "green" but because of limited parking at the school. Last year's event drew 500 people.
After the event is over at 7:30 p.m., adults will be invited to participate in a bike cruise to Taco Boy, via Hampton Park, for a celebration featuring a two-for-one margarita drink special.
What Charleston area race has been held more often than the old classics: the Cooper River Bridge Run, Turkey Day Run and Kiawah Island Marathon?
It also would be one of the smallest and quirkiest of them all, the Hell Hole Swamp Festival's 38th annual Gator Run in Jamestown. The event starts at 8:15 a.m. Saturday in front of Jamestown Town Hall. The cost is $25.
Last year's event drew 66 finishers who ran the 10K held on roads and Forest Service gravel roads in the Francis Marion National Forest.
The race traditionally starts with a shotgun blast and ends with a poem that will be composed by Michael Lake, the race director and self-described "Hell Hole Poet Laureate," while the runners are on the course.
The six champions, who get trophies featuring a taxidermied gator head, get to ride in the bed of pick-up truck in the Hell Hole Swamp Festival Parade, which also features an array of "beauty queens" from toddlers to teens and lots of "hillbillies."
Saturday's Wambaw Swamp Stomp is a 50-mile trail race and relay, featuring two 23.8-mile loops, along the Swamp Fox Passage leg of the Palmetto Trail and a section of the Jericho Horse Trail in the Francis Marion National Forest.
The event is open to solo ultramarathoners as well as relay teams of two, four, six or 10 people. Fees range from $30 and up.
From 8 a.m.-noon Saturday, EcoFitness and the Down Syndrome Association of the Lowcountry will host the second annual Ride for Kids with Special Needs.
In 2013, EcoFitness teamed up with the Down Syndrome Association of the Lowcountry and raised $20,000 to fund "I Can Bike," a nationally recognized camp for kids with special needs. This week-long camp, with the help of 60 local volunteers, helped 40 kids learn to ride a bike.
For the second year, the Medical University of South Carolina and its wellness center staff is teaming up with a local park and recreation agency for a month-long outdoor fitness initiative, Adventure Out.
In May 2013, the collaboration was with the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, which has since started its own outdoor fitness program. This year, MUSC is working with the city of Charleston Recreation Department. The program will offer a wide range of activities, including Latin dance, sunrise yoga, boot camp led by active-duty Marines and a special "Selfie Historic Scavenger" hunt that goes through interesting downtown Charleston locations.
The kickoff event, featuring Zumba and children's fitness activities, will be 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at Hampton Park. For a calendar of events, go to http://academicdepartments.musc.edu/adventureout/2014aocalendar.pdf
Reach David Quick at 937-5516.