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Early each May, teams of 32 rowers propel brightly colored dragon-shaped boats weighing more than 5,000 pounds back and forth across Tomari Port on Okinawa as part of the three-day Naha Hari festival.The race, to be held Saturday, is broken intocategories, including men’s and women’s military teams.

The Naha Hari — dragon boat — race was once a fisherman’s festival to show thanks to the sea gods and pray for continued safety and prosperity. Now, the festival is filled with games, concerts, music and, of course, the races. It marks the end of Golden Week and usually draws crowds of more than 150,000. This year’s festival starts Thursday and ends Saturday. Each day festivities start at 10 a.m. and conclude at 9 p.m. with a fireworks display. Admission is free.

(See story) Debbie Maroia, an Army spouse, digs her paddle in to the water during the Army Women's Dragon Boat Team practice Thursday evening at Kadena Air Base's Kadena Marina. This is Maroia's first year on the team. "Everybody says if you're on Okinawa, you've got to do this," she said. "It's been the best experience." Gunnery Sgt. Joy Craig, right, Navy Women's Dragon Boat Team captain, corrects one of her teammates' paddle technique during a practice session Friday morning at the Kadena Marina. Jodi Wall, front, a Marine spouse, and the rest of the Navy Women's Dragon Boat team put in a 30 minute practice early Friday morning in the shallow water at Kadena Marina. Army Women's Dragon Boat Team coach Irene Gillian, middle, exhorts her team to push themselves harder during a paddle drill Thursday evening at Kadena Marina. Irene Gilliand, the coach for the Army Women's Dragon Boat Team, hand-painted a paddle for each of the 32 members of the team. Shelley Riedel, front, and teammates practice rowing in unison to a drum beat. Riedel, who is married to a soldier, said she joined the team to push herself at least hard as her husband pushes himself.

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