July 6, 7, & 8, 2018
Maffeo Sutton Park, 10 Comox Rd, Nanaimo, BC
Also, check out The InFrinGinG Dance Festival happening the same weekend.
Photo by Mike Anderson

This year’s 16th annual Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival (July 6, 7, & 8, 2018) hosts 72 teams from Vancouver Island, Western Canada, and the USA.

The event takes place at Maffeo Sutton Park on Nanaimo’s downtown waterfront.

Dragon boat racing is an exhilarating sport to take part in or to watch, so you won’t want to miss it!

There’s no better way to gain insightful information than talking with the experts, so we contacted Leslie Sutton, the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival Marketing Chairwoman, and asked her some questions. Read further to discover what we found out!

What is the Story Behind the Festival?

In 2003 a group of people got together to fundraise for breast cancer detection equipment for the Nanaimo Hospital Foundation. According to founding member Andrea Rosato-Taylor, “We wanted to give back to the community, in a big way.” Which is fitting as 20 years ago, Canadian sports medicine specialist Donald C. McKenzie inspired breast cancer survivors to come together on dragon boat teams because he believed it would benefit their physical health and social well-being. His research, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found “an emerging hypothesis that dragon boating is a vehicle for improving women’s wellness and post-treatment quality of life.

What is Your Mission?

Our mission is to provide the premiere dragon boat destination, a good spirit, a competitive camaraderie and an enjoyable time in the celebration of life.

We are honoured to be recognized for making contributions towards the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer patients on Central Vancouver Island, but the paddlers, sponsors, volunteers and members of the general public who support our event are the true heroes.

Photo by Nancy Shields

What is the Single Best Thing About this Festival?

It‘s hard to pick one single best thing. I would say it’s the people. The paddlers high five each other, even if they just lost a race; the paddlers who sing and dance and smile and cheer, the volunteers, some who are there all weekend who listen and help; the spectators who join in the fun; the sponsors who pull out all the stops to make sure everyone is taken care of.

What are the Key Events?

Friday, July 6 9:15 pm:

The Stones of Courage Ceremony honours anyone who has been affected by cancer. A lone piper will lead a procession of dragon boating breast cancer survivors, each carrying a sea stone, to the edge of the Swy-a-Lana lagoon. Stones are obtained upon a monetary donation throughout the afternoon allowing everyone to participate!

Sunday. July 8 12:00 pm:

Carnation Ceremony: after the Survivors Challenge, where 4 survivor teams race and 4 survivor teams watch from the dock, the paddlers will walk under an arch of paddles to Swy-a-Lana Lagoon with a pink carnation in hand. The pink carnation ceremony has become a very meaningful ritual for paddlers and audience alike. After a few words about breast cancer awareness, the importance of celebrating the lives of survivors, of offering hope to those still battling the disease, and of honouring those who have tragically lost their battle with breast cancer, everyone present will raise their carnation in honour of lives well lived and of lives interrupted by cancer. Carnations are for sale allowing everyone to participate!

Sunday, July 8 at 10:00 am:

“Elvis” Gospel

Sat and Sun 7:00 am to 11:00 am:

Shriners Pancake Breakfast

NEW This year!

Wild Play and City of Nanaimo have reinstalled the zip line which will bring you zipping across Sway-a-Lana lagoon.

More than Dragon Boats?

What other opportunities are there for attendees to take part in?

Crimson Coast Dance Society and their InFrinGing Dance Festival: Dancing In The Belly Of The Dragon provides a tremendous assortment of entertainment opportunities during the festivities.

How To

Park downtown or take public transit (no Parking on site) then walk the Harbour walkway to Maffeo Sutton Park. Come to watch great racing, then stay for the Shriners pancake breakfast, food trucks, the Sea Stones and Carnation ceremonies, Longwood Brewery beer gardens, and more.

If you are travelling from afar, visit the Tourism Nanaimo website for more information on how to get here and where to stay.

For more information on the festival, visit www.nanaimodragonboat.com or https://www.facebook.com/ndbfs/

— Written by Curtis Havekotte