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Dragon boats race down the Fox River at RiverFest

ST. CHARLES – At 94 years old, Edward Gorecki of St. Charles for the second year in a row climbed aboard a dragon boat and beat the drum for his team, the Knights of Columbus, during RiverFest in St. Charles on Saturday.

Gorecki, a World War II veteran who served in the Army, said he has become the "honorary drummer" for the Knights of Columbus team. He said while his team finished in third place last year, he didn't think they did as well Saturday.

But for Gorecki, winning isn't the highest priority.

"I'm out here for the fun of it," he said. "I just drum and cheer them on. Whether we win or lose, it doesn't matter."

The Knights of Columbus team was one of 27 teams that were part of the weekend's annual Dragon Boat Races. Paul Wasylyszyn said in his six years as race coordinator, this year's RiverFest had the most dragon boat teams. Fourteen teams competed Saturday and another 13 are scheduled to compete Sunday.

Josh Corn, who lives near Maple Park, competed with the Paddlin' for MB team – a team that raced Saturday in honor of Marybeth McGill, who Corn said died in March 2012 from lung cancer. He said McGill had competed with the Flying Ears dragon boat team in previous years, and the two teams have competed together for the last two years.

Corn said about 50 people make up the two teams.

Instead of beating a drum, the team tapes a picture of McGill on a dragon boat to the top of the drum and the team uses their voices to keep a beat. He said McGill was a lifelong non-smoker who was very athletic.

"She was such an amazing person and we don't want her to be forgotten," Corn said. "Marybeth is with us every time we're on the boat."

Unlike Paddlin' for MB's team, St. Charles couple Rachel and Bruce Harps from the Dragon @ 55 team said they depend most on their drummer to guide them in the race. Bruce Harps said the key to the race is teamwork, timing and rhythm.

The Dragon Boat Race has become a tradition for the team, which is made up of 20 people.

"We've been looking forward to it since March," Bruce Harps said.

Corn shared their enthusiasm for the annual race.

"Once you're in the boat, you find out how fun it is," Corn said. "It's all about camaraderie and having a good time."

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