Awakening the dragon for good luck and smooth sailing

A traditional awakening-the-dragon ceremony kicked off the three-day Victoria Dragon Boat Festival and racing regatta in the Inner Harbour on Friday.

The 2,000-year-old tradition, intended to bring festival participants good luck and smooth sailing, sets the right tone for the festival, said Erik Ages, general manager of the Fairway Gorge Paddling Club, which produces the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival.

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Taoist priests arrived from Vancouver to take part in the blessing ceremony, the lighting of joss sticks, a type of incense, the presentation of gifts, and the painting of the eyes of ceremonial dragon heads — all intended to awaken the spirit of the dragon.

“I think it centres people and grounds them,” Ages said.

The festival at Ship Point in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, in its 24th year, is Victoria’s largest Asian cultural festival and is a fundraiser for the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

Races take place all day today and Sunday with the festival site open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days.

For cancer survivors and their friends and families, this is an important time in the calendar, “a time when everyone affected by cancer comes together,” Ages said.

For the first time, there will be a boat with survivors of other cancers in addition to teams of breast-cancer survivors and their supporters.

The event is free to watch.

Proceeds come from team registration fees and related initiatives. The teams are either co-ed or all women, and compete in various categories.

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

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