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15,000 flock to Steveston dragon boat festival

Don Fennell   Aug-29-2017

Blue skies made for a great day in Steveston.

Photo by Chung Chow

The stars seemed perfectly aligned Saturday in Steveston.

Blessed with clear blue skies on a picture-perfect August summer day, more than 15,000 people flocked to picturesque Bayview Street to enjoy the eighth annual dragon boat festival. And whether it was simply to watch the races or to partake, wide smiles prevailed.



Event organizer and Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival general manager Ann Phelps’ explanation for the resounding endorsement is simply the culture of dragon boating.

“It’s very inclusive and diverse,” she says, attracting people from all ages, ethnic groups and financial levels. “But they work as a team. You have to do that to move the boat properly, and in communicating you become friends. Something you notice is that people meet as strangers and by the end of a season are friends. There’s always a place on a dragon boat regardless of who you are.”

The level of co-operation among the racers also extended to the shore at the Steveston festival. Phelps notes the corporate support is outstanding, giving particular kudos to the Onni group which not only threw its financial support behind the event but also offered on-site parking and the use of on-site spaces. She also praised all the other area neighbours who embraced the event, including residents who frequently called down from their balconies “What race is this? We want to invite our friends over.”

Aside from a couple natural challenges—races can accommodate only a maximum six boats because of the width of the Fraser River and this year a particularly low tide—the on-the-water course which extends from Imperial Landing to the Britannia Heritage Shipyard was enthusiastically embraced by the nearly 1,000 paddlers, including many from out of town.

With the festival’s success, and talk of expanding to a two-day event, Phelps says Richmond should consider establishing a dragon boating centre like the one which opened last year in Vancouver.

•Video and more photos at

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