Family team ‘1212 Crew’ ready to take on Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival

BEMIDJI — From far and near, family members of the 1212 Crew have traveled to compete in the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival races for over 12 years, but the race is more than just winning to them.

On Saturday, Aug. 6, when the horn sounds and teams paddle with everything they have to cross the finish line, the Zachman family has the help of three extra guardian angels with them.

According to 1212 Crew member Tracy Wettschrek, the family team decided to try the dragon boat race in 2010, a year after her father passed away, to honor him and the town he loved.

“When my dad passed away, my brother Steve thought this would be something fun for us to do in honor of our dad. That way we would all make sure the family would get together once a year,” Wettschrek said. “We raced in 2010 as a family, then we were kinda hooked. The next year we started planning it as a family reunion and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

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The Department of Corrections team, Dude, where’s my paddle?!, heads back to the waterfront after a practice session on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, ahead of the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival races.

Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

The team's shirts also demonstrate the significance and unity of the family. The Zachman family wears them with pride, in the words of Wettschrek, they’re more than just shirts.

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“My brother Steve designed our shirts, he designed the first one that had ‘RBZ’ for my dad's initials as we raced to keep his memory alive. Then when my mom and sister passed away, he added their initials to the shirt too,” Wettschrek said. “We’ve added the intent that we are racing for something more. The shirt means something when you put it on and everything on our shirts is designed for a reason, we do it for all of them and to be with family.”

The Zachman family usually held their family reunions over the Independence Day holiday but changed it to the first weekend in August to race in the Dragon Boat Festival.

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The Bemidji Fire Deptment team, the Blazing Hozers, wrap up a practice session on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, ahead of the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival races.

Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

“It's a great way to get the family together once a year because usually everyone has plans over the Fourth of July, so we moved our family reunion to August,” Wettschrek said. “This just seemed like a great weekend to do it because there’s so much going on.”

The 1212 Crew has won the race six times over the past 12 years, but according to Wettschrek, her family might be a little too competitive.

“Unfortunately, we might be a little too competitive, my daughter used to be afraid to be on the boat with us, you know I don't think they’re quite as competitive as the aunts and uncles,” Wettschrek laughed. “We are realistic because we know we are getting older, we know we aren't the most talented or the best in shape, but everyone hates to lose and we want to win so badly. We know we just have to dig a little deeper toward the end.”

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The TruStar Federal Credit Union team, Current-Sea, heads back to the waterfront after a practice session on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, ahead of the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival races.

Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

The Zachman family has been practicing throughout the week to prepare to seal their seventh victory, but there’s one thing they never fail to bring: a positive attitude.

“We always go into the race positive. We know it's going to be tough, but we have a lot of heart and like everybody, we want to win. But win or lose it’s just fun to be a part of and be with my family,” Wettschrek said. “Dad would have loved this, he loved family and this town and would have loved to see everything going on.”

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Dragon boats are lined up along the shoreline in Paul Bunyan Park on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, ahead of the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival races.

Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

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Remaining Dragon Boat Festival events

Saturday, Aug. 6

  • 8 to 9 a.m – 8th annual 5k run/walk
  • 8:45 a.m. – Mandatory all team manager's meeting
  • 8 to 10 a.m. – Race day breakfast
  • 8 a.m. to Midnight – Dragon’s Den Open 
  • 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. – Merchandise tent open
  • 9 to 9:30 a.m. – 1/2k run/walk
  • 9 a.m. to midnight – Dragon’s Den open 
  • 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Round 1 heats: Dragon Boat races
  • 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. – Food court open 
  • 1:30 to 4:15 p.m. – Round 2 heats: Dragon Boat races
  • 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. – Finals: Dragon Boat races
  • 5:30 to 6 p.m. – Dragon Boat Festival awards and closing Ceremonies
  • 6 to 11 p.m. – Dragon’s Den Entertainment: Corey Medina and Brothers

All race times are tentative and subject to race-day circumstances. For more information, visit bemidjidragonboat.com.


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