Go watch the Chinese-Canadian Dragon Boats in Banff National Park, Alberta
The Banff Dragon Boat Festival is an annual event that draws as many as 600+ participants to the waters of Lake Minnewanka.
The Chinese dragon boats race across the lake with twenty-two rowers moving in perfect synchronicity. Any break in the rhythm could cost them the race. In fact, many races end with split second photo finishes!
The dragon boats have been part of Chinese culture because in mythological tradition, dragons are believed to be the rulers of rivers and seas as well as dominating the clouds and rains.
The Chinese mythological traditions blend with a traditional Canadian legend on Lake Minnewanka, which is also known as “Lake of the Evil Water Spirits.”
The Stoney First Nations people called the lake this because of a myth about a half-human creature that was believed to prey upon unsuspecting boaters. Talk about race motivation!
The boats themselves are 12 meters (40 feet) long plus a dragon head and tail. The crew members are one drummer, one person in charge of steering and twenty paddlers. The paddlers have three sections (the pacers/strokes, the engine room and the rockets).They are very stable boats, so even beginners can safely race.
The pacers, you guessed it, set the pace. The drummers follow their lead and communicate the pace to the rest of the paddlers. The drum beats help the paddlers motivate when their arms get tired and help keep them in sync.
The event is fun for the cheering crowd on land as well. Excitement builds as the boats approach the finish line the drums get louder and dragon heads closer!
Once teams pay and register they can start practicing. Professional coaches can be assigned to inexperienced teams, or you can register with your own. Fast, sleek Dynasty Dragon Boats are supplied by The Alberta Dragon Boat Race Foundation for the festival.
A great family event!