The Mira Bay Dragon Boat Festival in 2019.

With ongoing renovations in the area where the annual Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Festival typically occurs, it will relocate for this year’s race. On Saturday, April 24 at 8:30 a.m., Mary Help of Christians Center in Tampa will be the venue for the 18th annual Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Festival.

This free family-friendly event will include around 30 vendors, such as the Bacon Dog food truck, Rays Concessions, crafts, music and more. Ruskin resident Jennifer McCafferty, owner of Jen’s Markets & Events LLC, has been involved with the Pan American Dragon Boat races for several events. McCafferty manages the food vendors and more. A portion of the vendor fees will go towards a nonprofit called Mad Dragon Foundation.

Mike Kerkmann, president and owner of Pan American Dragon Boat Association, LLC, established Mad Dragon Foundation in 2019. The foundation raises funds in support of youth dragon boat and para-dragon initiatives in the Pan American region.

Kerkmann has owned and operated his dragon boat production, rental and sales business in Canada and the United States since 1995. As a resident in Ybor City, he has run a camp and event in the SouthShore area. Pan American Dragon Boat began operating six years ago. It is also a well-known supplier of dragon boat equipment and production services in North America.

Kerkmann stated what makes the watersport unique.

“Many residents have no access or opportunity to get on the water to participate actively in a competitive amateur sport,” Kerkmann said. “Dragon boat racing offers this in spades.”
The property itself is more than 40 acres. About 30 teams will participate, and each team will do three races. The courses include 200m, 500m and 2k. There are a wide array of racing classes, and entry fees vary. Trophies will be awarded to the winners.

“Overall, the key marketing mantra for dragon boat is that it is a safe and easy way to become involved in a team watersport,” Kerkmann said.

For more information, visit The event will be located at Mary Help of Christians Center on 6400 E. Chelsea St. in Tampa. To become a vendor, email McCafferty at

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Tatiana Ortiz is a freelance writer with the Osprey Observer Newspaper. She began as an intern here in 2010 and has been writing since. Tatiana graduated from the University of South Florida in 2015. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. In her free time, Tatiana enjoys photography, biking and being with her family.