Beat goes on for this weekend’s Victoria Dragon Boat Festival

The quickening cadence of drumbeats echoing off the buildings will tell spectators of the accompanying strokes of paddlers competing in the three-day Canada Dry Victoria Dragon Boat Festival and racing regatta on the Inner Harbour, Friday to Sunday.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the event, hosted by the Fairway Gorge Paddling Club and a fundraiser for the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

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Apart from being Victoria’s largest Asian cultural festival, it is also the only dragon boat race in Canada that takes place on a working harbour.

Up to 80,000 spectators are expected to watch local and visiting teams from Vancouver, Nanaimo, Seattle and Portland. The co-ed or all women teams compete in various challenge races, such as the Great Grand Dragon, Corporate Team, Guts and Glory, and Breast Cancer Survivors.

There are teams of breast-cancer survivors as well as a boat with survivors of other cancers.

A Flower Ceremony ritual takes place immediately following the breast cancer survivor races.

During the ceremony, members of the teams raise a pink flower above their heads, swaying to the music, both to celebrate survival and to honour those who have lost the battle with the disease.

At a signal, paddlers and those on the shore toss the flowers onto the water.

Along with the races, there will be live entertainment, a food court and activities for children and families.

Proceeds come from team registration and other related fundraisers, including the Lights of Courage Campaign and the Paddlers’ Pledge Program.

The event is also a Dragon Boat Canada qualifying regatta.

The event is free to watch. Activities start with the Awakening of the Dragon (eye-dotting) ceremony at 1 p.m. Friday. Races take place from 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The festival site is open from 2 to 9 p.m. on Friday, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at Ships Point in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

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