Working as a team nets a local business a 1st place award at the annual Dragon Boat Races.

The Fitness Lodge's Fitness Ninjas won in the races during the Bayou DeSiard Dragon Boat Festival held May 18 in Monroe.

The festival took place on the Bayou at the corner of Fosythe Avenue and Loop Road. It is a fundraiser for the Monroe Renaissance which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization and growth of downtown Monroe. It is a community event that is open to the public.

“There was a fun, family, carnival-type atmosphere,” Fitness Lodge Owner Dan Wood said.

There were a total of 29 teams that competed. Each team paid an entry fee to get into the race. Sponsors ranged from hospitals, banks and doctor's offices to nonprofit groups. This was the second year for the festival to be held and the Fitness Ninja's first time competing.

The basic setup of the race is that the teams have to row a long slender boat called a dragon boat and race down the bayou. Each team has 20 rowers, a drummer and an oarsman. The goal is for the team to work together to get the best time.

The Fitness Ninjas had 25 people on their team, 18 of which were associated someway with the Fitness Lodge or Dan Wood's physical therapy.

“It's important to have people on your team who are physically fit and also have a strong desire to compete,” Wood said.

The teams had the opportunity to practice before the actual race. The Fitness Ninjas practiced one hour on Wednesday afternoon. Wood said it was a chance for them to learn the best technique and the best way to put people in the boat.

The Fitness Ninjas won with the best time by .03 seconds.

“The key to success is to have people in rhythm and paddling hard,” Wood said.

Woods said he was glad to have a chance to represent Bastrop at a Monroe event. A trophy, which is passed to the winner each year, is being engraved with the names from the Fitness Ninjas team and will then be displayed at the Fitness Lodge until next year's race.