Ottawa celebrates 25th anniversary of dragon boat festival

By Christopher Guly

OTTAWA, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Despite running over a rain-soaked weekend, the 25th anniversary of Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival attracted about 60,000 people and interest from the International Dragon Boat Federation which brought world championships to Ottawa.

John Brooman, president and chief executive officer of the Ottawa festival, told Xinhua that the capital city of Canada is being considered to host the club-crew championships, which will be held in Hungary next month.

He said there is also interest from the International Ice Dragon Boat Federation to have its world championships held in Ottawa, where Brooman launched North America's first ice-dragon boat festival in 2017.

That wintertime event has become the world's largest of its kind, with 100 teams of 12 paddlers per boat. The summer version, officially called the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival (named after sponsor, Canada's famous coffee-and-doughnut chain) is even larger with 5,000 paddlers competing on 200 teams in competitive, corporate and community categories.

The boats, made of wood and fiberglass, are over 12 metres long, and weigh 272 kilograms when empty and as much as 1,800 kg when filled.

Ottawa's Dragon Boat Festival builds on a Chinese cultural tradition of racing boats adorned with dragon heads and tails, which dates back more than two millennia and began along the riverbanks in southern China as a fertility rite performed to ensure bountiful crops, according to organizers.

At this year's event, several countries were represented, including Ukraine, Iran, Qatar and the United States. A team from Bangladesh was supposed to also participate, but its members were unable to obtain a visa to enter Canada, said Brooman.

The annual festival also has a strong philanthropic side, and raises money for various community groups in Ottawa.

One team, called the Draggin' Docs and composed entirely of female physicians, has raised over 300,000 U.S. dollars for charity over the past decade.

The four-day Ottawa event was as much about holding a festival as it was about racing dragon boats. It also featured free concerts and what was billed as North America's largest playground for children shaped like a map of Canada.

"A lot of dragon-boat festivals don't have the components we offer," said Brooman, adding that "we're told there's nothing like it in the world - not even in China."

[ Editor: WPY ]


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