July 12th, 2024

Dragon Boat Festival sets sail for June


By Trevor Busch - Lethbridge Herald on March 4, 2022.

Herald File photo A dragon boat team cuts through the water during an evening practice in a past season ahead of the Lethbridge Dragon Boat Festival.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtbusch@lethbridgeherald.com

After pandemic woes forced the cancellation of the Lethbridge Dragon Boat Festival over the past two years, vessels are set to part the waves again in 2022.
Back in action June 24-26 at Henderson Lake, festival organizers have the vision of making the festival the premier event of its kind in Western Canada.
“We’re very excited to be able to alert the community that we’re back for our 20th festival,” said Diane Randell, planning committee chair, during a media announcement at the Nikka Yuko Bunka Centre on Thursday. “This is a year we are celebrating our 20th anniversary – one year late – but we are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year so that adds another dimension to the entire experience. So for over 20 years dragon boating has been part of the fabric of the culture of Lethbridge, and word of this festival has traveled far and wide. We have had teams from all across Western Canada, we have had teams from the United States. So that word is out, and we have the vision that we will be the signature dragon boat festival event of Western Canada.”
Since its inception, the festival has seen significant growth and often fields 60-70 teams, making it one of the largest dragon boat events in the province.
“We have typically trained about 30 local teams, and we typically get 30-40 out of town teams coming to our great festival,” said Karen Johnson, race chair. “It doesn’t look like a festival day today with all this snow, but trust me, we are all starting to get ready.”
For 2022, the main stage will feature entertainment and the vendor area will have food and refreshments as well as a wide variety of merchandise. Kids will be able to take in KidsZone and the Children’s Festival, and there will be a beer garden for adults.
“This year – after a couple years’ hiatus – and thinking a little bit about what we can do differently…we decided to change up our categories this year,” continued Johnson. “We have something called ‘not dragons’ and that is just for smaller groups of about 10 people, so they can just get a taste of paddling they don’t have to find a full 22 friends to come on out. So 10 people in the boat, we’ll provide the steerer and the drummer, and they can have some fun on Saturday and then enjoy the festivities after that. The other two categories are Recreation, and then we’ve also decided to a Competitive category this year. Typically we race the recreation and competitive teams together. We decided to change that up a bit so we can spread our drums and steerers a little easier through the newer teams.”
The pandemic and its restrictions have been long and painful for many organizations in the city, and the Lethbridge Dragon Boat Festival has been no exception.
“It is really extremely exciting for us to be able to be here today to say ‘the festival 2022 is on’,” said Randell. “That is such a change from the last two years where the committees had to go to the community and say because of the restrictions, we cannot do this safely. So people have been asking about it, we’ve had teams contacting us saying can you please let us know what’s happening. Given the current level, we are open for business this year, and registrations are open for teams to be able to join us.”

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