Enter the dragons
Scaled back event draws seven enthusiastic teams to Wellington
The high lake level threw havoc into the Wellington Lions Club’s plans for its annual dragon boat festival this year. “We didn’t know until three weeks ago that we could even have a festival,” says Janet Marissen. “So we didn’t really push getting our teams because until the water went down enough for them to put the docks in, we couldn’t have the festival.”
With the lake level finally receding, the Wellington dragon boat club was able to put their boats in the water around mid-July, and planning for the festival could begin in earnest. Due to the late start, only seven teams committed to coming to Wellington, but Marissen says that the teams were perhaps more enthusiastic than in any other year. This year, teams came from Ottawa, Toronto, Peterborough and Belleville, in addition to three local community teams. The festival is a major fundraiser for the Lions club, and any money raised is directed back into the community.
There was excitement both on and in the water this year. Strong waves in the lake led to some rough water at the start line in the mouth of the Wellington channel. The first race saw veteran steersperson Buzz Bowles tumble into the water as a rogue wave hit the boat during a turn. Bowles, who has taken part in every Wellington festival, took the dunking with good humour and quickly clambered back on board. Each team had three qualifying races before the final round, which pitted closely ranked teams against each other, leading to some hard-fought battles to the finish line. An essential part of the festival is the ceremony to support those who are struggling with cancer and to honour those who have lost their lives to the disease. There were two breast cancer survivor teams taking part in the festival this year, Survivors Abreast from Peterborough and Busting Out from Ottawa.
Although there were fewer teams than usual this year, Marissen was pleased with the festival. “It was very successful,” she says. “We have unbelievable support from the community. Our list of sponsors keeps growing and that makes it possible for us to be really successful.”