In the beginning, Mayor Jim White wanted to get a dragon boat race started on Lake Meridian. He had seen them during his visit to the Kent Chinese sister city of Yangzhou and thought Lake Meridian would make a perfect site. Kent resident and breast cancer survivor, Linda Simpson, had heard about a Portland-based cancer survivor team, Pink Phoenix, and was interested in starting a similar team on Lake Meridian. She began building a women's team and through an article in the Kent Reporter, many women in the community became aware of her efforts. The women started practicing in March of 2001 with the Tacoma Dragon Boat Association.
Meanwhile, Linda wrote a proposal to the Valley Breast Center for monies to purchase a dragon boat which was granted and used for a second-hand six-sixteen style dragon boat. Mayor White subsequently volunteered Kent City Council member Tom Brotherton to moor the boat at his dock on Lake Meridian. Linda named the team the “Ladies of the Lake” and founded the Kent Dragon Boat Association.
KDBA’s first race was the Women's Regatta on False Creek in Vancouver, B.C. The team was comprised of all novices, including the tiller, and in the first race the team quickly went off course. A tiller from the chase boat joined KDBA’s boat and asked if we wanted to head to shore or finish the race. Of course, we wanted to finish the race and our time was somewhere over 11 minutes. Needless to say, the Ladies of the Lake finished in last place at their first regatta.
The team’s next race was the inception of Mayor White’s fledgling idea, the first Kent Cornucopia Race. At the time, docks were moved to the middle of the lake and the tail of the boat was held for the start. In the second heat, the KDBA boat tail being held, the chase boat next to us took off and swamped our boat. The Ladies of the Lake abandoned their boat and swam to the starting dock. A couple members of the Amazon Dragons team, seeing us in distress, jumped out of their boat and bailed ours. This is where the women’s team acquired the name the “Ladies IN the Lake”. Once again, the team completed the race and came in last in our first Kent Cornucopia Race.
The last race of that first season was in Portland. Linda arranged for us to be hosted by Pink Phoenix who believed most of the team were cancer survivors, which we were not. Pink Phoenix were very gracious hosts and again we finished last in the standings. However, we had a fun time, started making many lifelong friendships, and building a successful dragon boat association. That fall we held our first end of the year banquet.
Eventually, Mayor White asked the Kent Lions Club to run the race on Lake Meridian. The Lions wanted to sponsor a team and purchased their own used six sixteen boat which was moored on the lake at Lion Steve Crowell's dock. Krista Wilson (neé Bradley), who had been a dragon boat member in Portland, pulled together several staff members from Meeker Junior High and friends and they became the “Dragin Tails” coed team. Krista also formed a youth team to compete in the Kent Cornucopia Race.