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Vancouver Events: The Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat racing began in southern China as a Summer Solstice fertility ritual to ensure a good harvest. During the fourth century BC, the story of  patriot-poet Qu Yuan becomes integrated in Dragon Boat history. Qu Yuan was banished from his beloved country and, in despair, leapt into a river clutching a heavy rock. The people tried to save him, racing out in their fishing boats, defending his body from fish and water dragons by beating drums and splashing with their oars.

#5 crew looks relieved to cross the finish line first

Modern Dragon Boat races still occur near the Summer Solstice and at the opening ceremony for race events, a Taoist priest performs an “eye dotting” ceremony to awaken the dragons and bless them, cleansing the racecourse and envigorating the paddlers.

2010 marks the 22nd Annual Dragon Boat Festival taking place in the waters of False Creek in Vancouver, British Columbia. Admission is FREE. Festival entrances are located near Concord Place and Science World. Take the bus or skytrain, ride your bike, or just hoof it and leave the car at home.

A gorgeous day for festival fun.

Of course, there’s plenty of festival food, from dim sum and perogies to Jamaican patties and kettle korn. Vera’s has a burger stand set up, and there’s no shortage of those cute and tasty Mini Doughnuts. Food vendors take Dragon Dollars instead of cash. PURCHASE Dragon Dollars at booths near entryways. Grownups can also buy beer/wine tickets and relax in the Beer Garden hosted by Granville Island Brewery.

About 180 Dragon Boat teams will participate this year, and races are frequent. There’s plenty of fun to be had, so go down and enjoy music from the World Beat stage or peruse goodies and info offered by vendors, companies, and local organizations. Don’t forget to see what’s cookin at the Aluminum Chef contest (finals on Sunday). You might even get to guest-judge a dish!

Find out more about the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.