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Nanaimo Dragon Boat festival

It’s a new era for the Save On Foods Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival, one of Nanaimo’s most popular events, slated to drop paddles July 5–7. According to the organizers, there are many upgrades this year, including the level of competition and international flavour, with two teams making their first trip from California.

“We raced in Victoria a couple years ago and met paddlers from Nanaimo who told us it’s a great race in a great place,” says Carol Beaver, captain of the Alameda Dragon Flyers from San Diego.

And the reputation for a quality event is only growing. This year will be the 17th Save on Foods Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival at Maffeo Sutton Park. Wind and waves challenge paddlers on the water, while the market place, the food trucks, Longwood Beer Garden and three days of multicultural performances brings everyone together. New this year is the addition of Lights of Courage. Beautiful paper lanterns, with personal messages about someone or some experience with cancer, will add colour to the park. All visitors can hang a lantern on site over the festival weekend.

Sue MacSporran, captain of the MS Warriors team calls the Nanaimo Festival her favourite of the year. “Everyone on the team loves the venue, the camaraderie with all of the teams, the crazy races (you never know how the water will be), going to the dance in the evening,” she says. This year, the festival is capped at 72 teams to offer a new Guts and Glory 1500-metre timed race at the end of the normal racing schedule on Saturday and Sunday.

This annual event donates 100 per cent of the net proceeds to improve the treatment and care of cancer patients and their families. While they are honoured to be recognized for the $700,000+ contribution, it’s the paddlers, sponsors, volunteers and members of the general public that are the true heroes.

All festival information at


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