Victoria celebrated the 20th annual Dragon Boat Festival at the Inner Harbour last weekend with style. The shore saw the biggest turnout in the festival’s history, while on the water, previous race records were consistently topped.
Several teams from Victoria managed to claim the top of the podium at the award ceremony on Sunday. Team Cream OC20 finished first in both the mixed and women’s platinum divisions, while the Gorging Dragons placed third in the mixed platinum division. The Gorging Dragons Sr. B (55+) Women’s team also crossed the finish line with one of the best times of the entire festival.
Last year’s record time of 1:53 was topped by six teams this year, while 20 additional teams managed to finish in under two minutes.
Even off the water, the festival managed to top last year’s numbers. While the exact attendance numbers are still being determined, volunteer coordinator Lance Shaver said spectators flooded the Inner Harbour this year thanks in part to the sport’s growing popularity, a collection of musical and performance acts and taking advantage of the province’s new liquor laws.
Volunteer numbers were also on the rise this year, as around 450 came to lend a helping hand. Shaver, who was a volunteer at last year’s festival, said he was impressed by the level of enthusiasm.
“More than a few volunteers went over and above. We had some scheduled for four hours who ended up staying for 10,” he said.
“A lot of people are seeing the Dragon Boat Festival as a good way to give back to the community. We had a lot of students volunteer this year.”
The B.C. Cancer Foundation, the beneficiary of the event, saw huge numbers as well. Though less teams took the “paddler’s pledge,” six opposed to last year’s nine, they managed to raise $32,335, comparable to last year’s numbers. Sales of carnations and lanterns were a huge draw as well, with more than 10,000 lanterns being sold.
Though numbers are still being tallied, development officer Debbie Walsh estimated that more than $60,000 was raised throughout the weekend.