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Explore: Dragon boat festival, Japanese Cultural Fair, parks programs

A roundup of upcoming events in the Greater Victoria area, including the Vancouver Island Dragon Boat Festival, Japanese Cultural Fair, and CRD Parks programs on butterflies and reptiles.
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Teams take part in last year’s Vancouver Island Dragon Boat Festival. The 2023 edition of the event, put on by the Fairway Gorge Paddling Club, hits the Gorge this weekend. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Dragon boats return to the Gorge at weekend festival

The Vancouver Island Dragon Boat Festival returns to the Gorge Waterway this weekend.

Unlike traditional dragon boat races, the event features a pentathlon format, with race events of 100, 200 and 500 metres, a flag relay, a guts and glory race, as well as races to determine the weekend’s overall champions.

“Sometimes when you look at a list of teams, you know who is going to win in an event,” said Erik Ages, general manager of the Fairway Gorge Paddling Club. “Our pentathlon format creates a more competitive environment, which is out of the ordinary for dragon boat racing.”

The format will force crews to adopt different strategies in the races in order to win.

This year the club will host teams from Victoria, Nanaimo, Kitimat, Vancouver and, for the first time, Calgary.

Produced by the Fairway Gorge Paddling Club, the two-day festival is as a rebranding of an older festival known as Gorge Fest.

Two days of on-stage entertainment kicks off with a lion dance by the Wong Sheung Kung Fu Club on Saturday. Other performers include Pearls of the South Pacific, the Victoria Academy of Ballet, Uminari Taiko Drummers, Chinese Victoria Dance, Funkanometry Dance Duo, and the Soul Shakers.

Organizers promise other family-friendly amusements on site, along with a number of international food trucks.

The races will be held between the Selkirk Trestle and the Point Ellice Bridge.

“People will be able to watch the start and finish of a race without moving from wherever they are viewing,” Ages said. “Because of where we are away from the busy Inner Harbour, teams won’t need to pause a race to accommodate ferry traffic or dodge sea planes.”

He said that the best viewing spot is on the promenade in front of the club, although some might enjoy watching the excitement from the Selkirk Trestle.

Viewing races and admission to the entertainment is free. The races begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and continue until 3:30 p.m. with the medal ceremony at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Fairway Gorge Paddling Club, 2940 Jutland Rd.

For more information, go to fgpaddle.com/vidbf.

Fair highlights Japanese culture

The Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society is hosting the 23rd Japanese Cultural Fair at Esquimalt Gorge Park Pavilion on Saturday. 

Displays at the family-friendly event will include the Vancouver Island Bonsai Society, Okinawan music and dance by Southern Wave, a demonstration of ninjutsu and jujutsu koryu karate by Kongo Dojo and drumming by Uminari Taiko.

A craft tent will be set up for children, with demonstrations of origami and games that would have been played in the old Takata Tea Gardens that stood in the location of the event before the Second World War.

Watch the Urasenke Tankokai Victoria Association perform a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, or take a guided tour of the Japanese garden to learn its history. Meet at the Takata Sakura trees beside Things Japanese. Tours are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Japanese classic car enthusiasts will exhibit their vehicles, including a 1979 Honda Civic, 1986 Toyota Trueno (AE86), 1990 Honda CRX Si and a 1999 Nissan Skyline BNR34 GT-R.

There will be a number of vendors selling food — be sure to save room for kakigori (snow cones)!

You can also have your picture taken (for a donation) in a traditional yukata — popular Japanese summer wear.

The event is free and runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Esquimalt Gorge Park Pavilion, 1070 Tillicum Rd.

For more information, go to vncs.ca

Meet the creatures that live in region's parks

Get to know creatures that slither and flutter at two upcoming programs hosted by CRD Regional Parks.

On Saturday, join CRD Regional Parks naturalists and special guest organizations for exhibits, displays and activities at Slithery, Slimy and Scaly.

The drop-in program runs 11 a.m to 2 p.m. near the nature centre at the Beaver Beach parking lot of Elk/Beaver Lake Park. Accessible guided walks will be offered throughout the event.

The park is accessible via B.C. Transit routes No. 70, No. 72 or No. 75.

On Tuesday, celebrate your love of butterflies at Brilliant Butterflies, a guided walk for all ages at Mill Hill Regional Park.

Join a CRD Regional Parks naturalist to discover the surprising wonders of a butterfly’s habitat, lifecycle and daily activities at this interactive nature walk. Note that the 600-metre route, on a compact surface with roots, has a steep incline.

The guided walk is free to join. It runs 10 to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 29 at Mill Hill Regional Park in Langford. Meet at the information kiosk at the parking lot off Atkins Avenue.

The park is accessible via B.C. Transit route No. 53.

All programs run rain or shine. Try to arrive 10 minutes beforehand. For more information on either program, go to crd.bc.ca/parks-recreation-culture.

parrais@timescolonist.com