The Victoria Dragon Boat Festival sails into its 20th annual celebration this weekend with its largest roster yet.
Ninety teams from throughout the Pacific northwest will race all day Saturday and Sunday in divisions ranging from novice to elite.
General Manager Glenys Haskins said that the society’s acquisition of the Gorge Paddling Club earlier this year will help keep it connected with Victoria’s dragon boat community.
“From the paddlers’ perspective, this means the festival can be more in touch with what they will appreciate,” Haskins said.
“We can act as a guiding hand for the growth of the sport, we can go beyond just being a once a year festival and add a year-round component.”
The festival begins on Friday at 1 p.m. with a blessing by Songhees and Esquimalt elders, followed by the traditional eye-dotting ceremony, in which Taoist priests dot the eyes of each dragon boat in order to awaken them before racing.
Racing begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, with qualifying teams moving on to the semi-finals at 8 a.m. on Sunday. Awards will be given to paddlers on Sunday afternoon, followed by a closing Paddlers’ Dance at 4:30 p.m.
Aside from racing, participants can enjoy live music at the main stage at Ship Point, as well as dance, Tai Chi, Kung Fu and hip-hop performances at the cultural stage next to the Forbidden City Food Court.
Food trucks will be on-site and historic First Nations and Chinese walking tours will take place each afternoon.
Three get special honour at dragon boat gala event
The Victoria Dragon Boat Festival Society’s 20th anniversary gala Aug. 13 will see three community leaders receiving lifetime memberships to the society.
The recipients are: Don Yuen, founder of Fairway Market; Mel Cooper, president of Melco Management; and Captain Cedric Steele of the Royal Canadian Navy.
The recipients were chosen based on their support, either personal or financial, of the Dragon Boat Festival and the dragon boat community over the past 20 years.