It’s the time of year when dragons are once again free to swim the waters of the North Saskatchewan River. We’re talking dragon boats of course and this year’s Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival is shaping up to be another winner on the water. Now in its 22nd year, the festival attracts boaters from all over the globe looking to paddle their way to victory on Edmonton’s waterway.
Founded in 1996, the Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival Association(EDBFA) has organized and hosted this spectacular event each year during the third weekend in august, rain or shine. The Edmonton festival is just one of many that take place across Canada and the world and many teams will travel to, or have already participated in, other Dragon Boat Festivals including Calgary, Toronto and Victoria. Dragon Boating traces its roots back to southern china over 2000 years ago when fishing boats were decorated and adorned with dragon heads as part of a fertility rite hoping to encourage rain and good crops. Today, festivals are held in hundreds of locations around the world and work to encourage involvement in local communities and a commitment to the communities the participants live in.
This year, Edmonton’s 3-day festival starts Friday, August 17th with the traditional blessing of the boats ceremony that kicks off this fantastic event and continues throughout the weekend. Food trucks, musicians and merchandise vendors can be found throughout the festival site as well as a beverage garden for thirsty paddlers and race observers.
Friday August 17th:
The festival begins with the traditional “Blessing of the Boats” from 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm at Louise McKinney Park near the docks. Friday is also the start of the Novice Cup races where new paddlers and teams enjoy a friendly competition and set the course for the rest of the weekend. The novice races start at 7:30 pm and is a great way to spend your Friday evening encouraging these first time racers as they get their feet wet in the tradition of Dragon Boating.
Saturday August 18th:
Let the races begin! Saturday morning’s race schedule pits randomly drawn teams against each other as they race 3 teams at across 3 lanes for a distance of 500 meters. Dragon Boat teams race twice during the day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and the combined total of their two racing times will determine the racing order for Sunday’s finale. The festival’s opening ceremonies take place a noon and feature traditional Chinese taiko drums, a Chinese lion dance with other cultural activities and entertainment throughout the day.
Sunday August 19th:
Sunday is when the competition really shines and the teams’ skills are put to the test. Semi-final races begin at 9:30 am with the finals starting at 1:00 pm. Competitive racing is put on hold at noon for a special race that celebrates the strength and courage of breast cancer survivors with the Pink Ribbon Challenge. Sponsored by the Edmonton Breast Friends Dragon Boat Racing Team, teams of survivors from all over the country and the world race to raise awareness and hope for cancer survivors. The Pink Ribbon ceremony follows the race with breast cancer survivors walking to the river where they will toss pink carnations into the water as a tribute to those that have been affected by the awful disease. The day’s festivities wrap up in the afternoon with the always exciting and exhilarating final races that will determine the overall winners of this spectacular weekend. Medal and trophies are presented during the closing ceremonies late in the afternoon.
Whether you’ve been to the Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival in previous years, or this will be your first time, there’s always something exciting going on and a few surprises in store from these fantastic races! Full of excitement, team spirit and pride, every member of the family will enjoy the festivities. Maybe you'll even be inspired to join one of Edmonton's awesome dragon boat teams! So head on down to the races, cheer a team to victory and support this fantastic event. We’ll see you there!