Dragon Boat Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary

A record 200 teams and approximately 5,500 paddlers, steerspeople and drummers are expected to take part in this year’s Concord Pacific Dragon Boat Festival. The festival takes place June 22-24 at Creekside Park, Concord Pacific Place and on the waters of False Creek.

Besides the races, the festival features live music, arts and crafts, as well as a beer garden. The festival will also display the original teak boats sent by Hong Kong for Expo 86. See below for highlights of the 30th anniversary of the event.

Awakening of the Dragons: Boat Blessing and Eye Dotting Ceremony (Friday June 22 at 3 p.m., Main Stage)—Ancient Chinese dragon mythology proposes that the dragon sleeps in the mountains, and travels to the water at the moment when the eyes of the dragon are dotted. In this grand tradition, priests and members of the congregation of the Evergreen Taoist Church conduct this ancient and colourful ritual. Guest dignitaries assist in this rite, dipping brushes in pots of red cinnabar paint and dabbing the eyes on the boats’ dragon heads.

Dragon Fire Show (June 22, Concord Stage at 7 p.m.)—Fire dancers, acrobats, and more celebrate the kickoff of the festival’s 30th anniversary.

Rumba Calzada (Saturday June 23 at 6 p.m., Main Stage)—Vancouver salsa/jazz/Afro-Cuban combo Rumba Calzada tops a day of free live music, familiy activities and cultural entertainment on Saturday. Other musical acts include Los Tambores (11 a.m.), Grooveport (12:30 p.m.), the Stephanie Pedraza Band (3 p.m.), and Orquestra Tabaska (4:30 p.m.). Festivities continue with more live music on Sunday.

Food trucks and Red Truck Patio (June 23 & 24 starting at 11 a.m., Creekside Park)—BC’s biggest outdoor patio covers over three hectares on the False Creek waterfront. Red Truck Brewery provides the beer, and a selection of food trucks offers international flavours.

Vancouver’s Dragon Boat Festival is the biggest of its kind in North America. It is also the first dragon boat festival on the continent, going back to 1989.

“We’ve come so far, especially when you consider that dragon boat racing is a relatively new sport in Canada,” says Ann Phelps, the GM of Dragon Boat B.C. and the Concord Pacific Dragon Boat Festival. “Early on, we were just a small annual event that featured long skinny boats that look like dragons, racing down a course. Now we run multiple events, present programs for the community, and we’re going to build a beautiful boating centre in downtown Vancouver that will be accessible and a legacy to the community for years to come. How can you not be excited about our future in Vancouver?”

The races begin every 11 minutes starting Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 8 a.m. A full day of finals takes place on Championship Sunday.

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