The Fuse Project’s annual Dragon Boat Festival has become a highly popular fundraiser to aid local youth on both sides of Mobile Bay. Started in 2014, it has grown into one of the largest Hong Kong-style boat races in the United States.
The event returns again to the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, having outgrown its original facilities at Five Rivers Delta Resource Center. Another capacity crowd is expected Saturday, June 10.
“Without a doubt, last year’s move to the Battleship allowed us to vastly increase participation in our festival,” Adrienne Golden, Fuse Project’s executive director, told Lagniappe. “We currently have 67 teams registered, and our goal is to provide every child in South Alabama a chance at success.”
Since forming in 2012, the Fuse Project has supported numerous causes that promote health, fitness, education and social responsibility of children in Mobile and Baldwin counties. In 2016, the group focused on after-school programs for children along the Alabama Gulf Coast.
“This year’s grant recipients haven’t been announced yet, but last year’s festival raised more than $220,000,” Golden said. “And those funds benefited NEST of Mobile, the Daphne Kappa League, Victory Teaching Farm and Fuse Factory.”
Seventy-two is the maximum number of teams the Fuse Project can accommodate for the one-day festival. Each team consists of 20 paddlers, a drummer and an experienced person to steer. The 46-foot-long boats race for 250 meters, and each team races at least twice. The top 15 teams will race a third time to compete for the title Fuse Project Dragon Boat Champion.
Activities start at 8 a.m. at this family-friendly, alcohol-free event. There will be a children’s area along with food and fashion trucks. Spectators are charged $2 for parking and $5 admission. For those also wishing to visit the adjacent Battleship exhibits, that cost will be $15.
NFL legend comes to Mobile
Another local nonprofit organization that works with area young people is the Palmer Williams Group. Its motto is “Helping today’s youth see a better tomorrow.”
Co-founder Sherman Williams exploded onto the sports scene by rushing for 3,000 yards as a senior in leading the Blount Leopards to the 1990 state title. He continued to shine at the University of Alabama and was a member of the Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys in his rookie year.
Once his NFL career ended, he got into trouble with the law and spent time in jail. During his incarceration, he remained in touch with David Palmer, his roommate in Tuscaloosa. Once Williams was released the two formed PWG, which focuses on developing disadvantaged youth through programs offering physical fitness activities, nutritional counseling and life skills development.
PWG offers free youth programs, including the Lifesync Academy (life skills program), financial literacy clinics, athletic youth camps and cheer, football and soccer teams. All of these efforts take money to operate.
As the centerpiece of PWG’s inaugural fundraiser, Williams reached out to a former Cowboys teammate to serve as guest speaker. On June 15 at The Grounds (1035 Cody Road N. in West Mobile) there will be “Dinner with Emmitt Smith.”
Smith led Escambia High School in Pensacola to two state titles before starring at the University of Florida. He then became the all-time leading rusher in NFL history. Smith has gone to excel as a real estate developer and sports analyst.
The doors open at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at 6 p.m. Smith is scheduled to speak at 6:30 p.m. and participate in a meet-and-greet session from 7-8 p.m.
Tickets to the dinner cost $100 (plus fees) while the VIP ticket is $175 (plus fees). Suggested attire is business casual. For addition information, visit www.palmerwilliamsgroup.org or send an email to [email protected].
Two athletic camps are scheduled for Saturday, June 17.
• The fourth annual Palmer Williams Group Athletic Youth Camp will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Prichard at Chickasabogue Park (760 Aldock Road). This free event is open to boys and girls ages 4-13.
According to sponsors, the camp will feature athletic skills and drills led by former professional NFL players, college soccer players and cheerleaders. There will be nutrition and physical fitness training by local providers, along with other family activities and food.
Participants can register online at eventbrite.com. Registration forms can also be requested by sending an email to [email protected].
• On the same day at Mobile Christian School (5900 Cottage Hill Road) the fifth annual Wells Fargo Youth Football Clinic will be presented by the Dollar General Bowl. This free clinic is for boys and girls ages 5-13 and runs from 8 a.m. to noon.
According to organizers, participants will have the opportunity to meet and work with college football coaches; run offensive, defensive and agility drills; learn proper techniques to promote on-field football safety; and learn about the importance of character development and good sportsmanship.
Take me out to the ball game
I attended a BayBears game over Memorial Day weekend. What a great night at The Hank, even if the home team fell short on the scoreboard.
The visit got me thinking: Is being a minor league manager the toughest job in sports? You are expected to prepare players for the parent club, and at the same time field a competitive squad to entertain local fans.
A roster change seems to take place every day in the Los Angeles Angels’ organization, with players being promoted, demoted or placed on injured reserve. I wonder how difficult it is for the BayBears’ Sal Fasano to complete his lineup card when the roster is in constant flux? Still, the team remains in the hunt for Southern League honors.