THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay’s 15th annual Dragon Boat Festival gets underway this weekend at Boulevard Lake. Nearly 30 teams are expected to take part in this year’s races.
The festival raises funds for the St. Joseph’s Foundation, Canadian Mental Health Association, Catholic Family Development Centre and Heart & Stroke Foundation. In addition to the team entry fee, paddlers can raise additional funds for one of the four charities.
The sport of Dragon boat racing traces its history back some 2000 years to the Pearl River Delta region of China, although dragon boating as an organized sport took hold in Hong Kong in the mid 1970’s.
Each Dragon boat holds a crew of 22; 20 paddlers, a drummer, and a sweep or steersman. Paddlers use the sound of the drum as well as visual cues by looking up the boat, to ensure the entire crew stays in sync throughout the race.
In Thunder Bay, races usually involve up to four boats per heat, and teams are grouped into various divisions based on their level of competitiveness.
The opening ceremonies commence this Friday at 6:30 pm, to be immediately followed by a brand new event; a 200 metre sprint competition. The more traditional 500 metre races will take place throughout the day on Saturday, with the closing ceremonies rounding out the event in the early evening.
The Dragon boat festival is a fantastic event for families. Food vendors, artisans, musicians and other entertainers, as well as a beer tent, will keep audiences entertained between races.
For more information visit www.paddlesport.org
Article by Scott Hobbs, pictures by Jess Vamplew