Raising Cancer Awareness at Boat Race

SuzCrew proudly won the morning races in honor of Suzanne Duke, who they lost to cancer in April. Hundreds of others participated in Peekskill Celebration’s Dragon Boat Races Aug. 4

More than 100 dragon boat racers sitting in 41-foot-long row boats about 100 yards from the Hudson River shoreline quietly raised roses in the air at Peekskill Celebration Saturday. Hundreds more gathered on shore in the high-noon heat and humidity with red, pink, yellow and white roses.

At Peekskill Celebration Vice Chair Bill Powers’ word, the hundreds of roses were tossed into the river to honor those who have won their battles against cancer, or have who been lost to cancer, a tradition practiced around the world.

The Cancer Awareness races have been a part of the 16-year Peekskill Celebration for 11 years and are continuing to grow. This year several more Cancer Awareness teams participated, and Celebration organizers dedicated the full morning to races for those teams. The afternoon community races, in which organizations from as far away as Pennsylvania competed, are sponsored by businesses and organizations.

SuzCrew won the morning races in Suzanne Duke's honor. Duke has been involved in the Cancer Races for years, but lost her battle with cancer in April. Her daughter, Buchanan resident Kelly McKinley, has just created an organization in her name to support families fighting cancer. The team paddled the 400-foot race in 1:01:43. Team members attributed their success to unity, strength and their steersman. 

SuzCrew was honored at an award ceremony held on a small stage by the boat launch. See the full list of first, second and third place winners and their times for each race at the end of this article.  

Although the grand prize was a simple medal for each team member, participants took the races seriously. Teams held practice in the weeks leading up to the event, with the assistance of the Peekskill Yacht Club. Some friendly but competitive banter was exchanged on the water in the minutes leading up to the races. And captains of less coordinated teams pointed to veteran teams gliding past, paddles hitting and exiting the water in perfect unison, and told their paddlers “that’s how it needs to be done!”* Many teams flaunted coordination in more than just their paddling. Some, like "Against the Wind," had tee shirts made just for the occasion, wore paddling gloves and matching bandanas. 

With 30 teams total participating in the day’s races, teammates had plenty of time between each heat to grill burgers and enjoy beverages with teammates in Dragonland, the stretch of grass on the southern end of the city’s riverfront park dedicated to the teams. Competitors also sauntered over to Riverfront Green to enjoy the day’s schedule of music, indulge on some fried oreos and other vendor offerings and pick up some swag from businesses and organizations that set up booths.

The Peekskill Celebration event ended with a spectacular 25 minute fireworks show set to music, sponsored by Entergy, for which thousands set up lawn chairs and blankets throughout all of the city’s viewpoints to enjoy.

Major sponsors of the Celebration also included: Wheelabrator, Hudson Valley Hospital Center, MCA of the Hudson Valley, Chase Media, D. Bertoline and Sons, and others, according to Peekskill Celebration.

Cancer Awareness Winners 

Support Teams

  1. Suz Crew- 1.01:43
  2. HVHC 1 - 1:04:73
  3. WMP Skullers - 1.05.47

Survivor Teams

  1. Against the Wind - 1.05.50
  2. Pin Steel - 1.06.67
  3. Empire Dragons -1:12:01

Community/Business Division

Grand Final

  1. Against the Wind - 1:03.46
  2. City of Peekskill - 1:03.73
  3. Hen Hud SEPTA - 1:09.77


  1. Quiet Man Public House- 1:05.43
  2.  Pink Steel - 1:06.63
  3.  HVGCC Young Professionals I (The Young Guns*) - 1:07.77

Click through the photos to see the races and the fireworks.

*Editor’s Note: The author of this article participated in the dragon boat races, along with Patch Advertising Manager Gina DeBonis, with the Hudson Valley Young Professionals “Young Guns” team. 

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