NEW GLASGOW – The sound of drums beating will echo through the downtown Saturday at the 15th annual Race on the River Dragon Boat Festival.
Opening ceremonies kick off Friday at 6:45 p.m. with the parade of teams as well as the traditional dotting of the eye which is meant to awaken the dragon and bless the paddlers and the boats for the following day’s races.
Sidewinder will be performing and the annual barbecue, hosted by the four local Sobeys store managers, will be taking place in the gazebo at Glasgow Square. Donations will be given back to the Dragon Boat committee.
The races kick off Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
“We have 38 teams signed up this year which is up from previous years,” notes Meghan Brophy, marketing director for Race on the River.
Brophy says there will be 39 races in total with each team getting an opportunity to race at least three times, up from the two guaranteed races in past years.
“The thought was that a lot of the teams race in the morning and then it’s just finals in the afternoon, so this helps to spread out the schedule a little better and gives everyone a full day at the event.”
There are a number of new teams taking part in the event as well this year including Mental Health and Addiction, Pictou County Firefighters and the Kinsmen and Kinettes.
“We have been running six boats the last couple of years, so things have been running more smoothly,” notes Brophy, adding there is a 10-minute gap between races.
Pledges are due in tomorrow night, July 21, so teams can no longer be registered at this point, but Brophy says there are teams that are still looking for paddlers for anyone interested.
“Practices are taking place in the evenings all week on the New Glasgow marina and anyone interested can pop down at that point or during the registration Saturday morning.”
Teams are made up of 20 paddlers as well as the drummer and coxswain.
There will also be entertainment throughout the day including performances by Men About Town, Layne Greene, Niki Veniot, Two Johns; No Waiting; Albert Dunnewold and Inner Voice as well as the Sobeys-sponsored children’s tent with activities and a bouncy house. There is also the Women Alike tent.
“It’s a family-oriented day,” she says. “There is something for everyone including Zumba and some great food vendors.”
To date, the Dragon Boat races have raised more than $1.6 million for the Women Alike Breast Cancer Survivors Society, Special Olympics Northern Region and Pictou County Prostate Cancer Support Association.
“It’s about the community coming together to raise funds and it really takes the whole community to make this a success.”
Online pledges will be accepted until the end of August at www.raceontheriver.com.
Above photo: Stephen Gallant of Dragon Boats East secures the drummer’s chair on the dragon boat in preparation of Saturday’s Race on the River Dragon Boat competition. (Harvie photo)