By Nick Kuhl on June 24, 2019.
The annual ATB Financial Lethbridge Rotary Dragon Boat Festival took
over Henderson Lake on the weekend, where teams raced through the
waters for a qualifying place in the Canadian Nationals, or to have
fun with a group of people.
Since 2002, the Dragon Boat Festival has drawn hundreds of people to
participate in the races, or take part in the weekend filled with
entertaining races, live entertainment, and fun activities. This year,
62 teams took part in the festival to race in the 200-, 500- and 2000-
metre races across the lake. Organizers say although there are some
competitive teams trying to place higher nationally, the festival and
dragon boat racing is about coming together and working collectively.
“This is one of the fastest growing group sports in the world, it is
about groups of people coming together to become one in a boat, it is
about camaraderie with a little bit of competition thrown in at the
end,” says Karen Johnson, race chair.
“We are at 62 teams this year. There is 27 local teams and 35 from out
of town, we have three from Montana, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary,
Kootenays. We have some recreational teams here, and we have some
competitive teams, we have several teams who are qualifying for the
Canadian Nationals in Regina in July.”
Teams consisted of either all women or mixed teams, as well as a C-Cup
Challenge where women cancer survivors race around the lake, and
finish with the traditional Rose Ceremony, where roses are tossed into
the lake to remember those lost to cancer. This year, festival
organizers were disappointed there were no youth races, due to the
lack of teams and interest from youth, but dozens of races continued
throughout the day, keeping people entertained with the competition.
Over the weekend, families were able to take in some live
entertainment from bands such as The Chevelles, the Chinook High
School Rock & Pop groups, Lawless Murphy, and Old School Band. They
were also able to take in the large kids zone filled with lots of
interactive activities, and food from local food trucks.
Johnson has been with the Dragon Boat Festival since it began 17 years
ago, starting out as a participant and later moving into her chair
position, and says Lethbridge has one of the best locations for racers
to use and for fans to watch. She says she is happy to see the way the
community has developed the festival into an annual tradition within
“We always get lots of compliments about our competition, our venue is
one of the best I have personally ever been to, and it is perfect here
because there is so much viewing space,” says Johnson.
“We have a wonderful festival with entertainment, there is a kids zone
which the youth love, and then we have the racing for the athletes and
the fans that love to watch them. Since the beginning it has really
grown from some people coming together to have some fun by the lake,
to a full-blown festival that families attend annually.”
The weather held up most of the weekend, allowing fans and racers to
spend the entire weekend by the lake to enjoy some sports and
entertainment. The ATB Financial Rotary Dragon Boat Festival would
like to thank all of their sponsors for helping out, and the Sea
Cadets for their assistance on running the dock for the racers.
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