Dragon boat paddlers make their way through the Selkirk waters during a practise night. The annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival takes over the Inner Harbour this weekend, Friday through Sunday, with races and land-based elements. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

24th annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival hitting the water

Races, music, food and more will take up Ship Point this weekend

Drums, dragons and hundreds of paddlers descend on Victoria’s Inner Harbour this weekend for the 24th annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival.

From Friday through Sunday (Aug. 10 to 12), over 70 teams from across the Pacific Northwest will compete in races paying homage to a Chinese tradition that’s been practised for over 2,000 years.

The event kicks off on Friday at 1 p.m. with a blessing from a Taoist priest from Vancouver, as well as the dotting of the eyes of the dragon-headed helms to “awaken the dragons.”

Paddlers span all ages and abilities and the teams include one stocked with those 50-over, another whose members are all visually impaired, and Victoria’s newest mixed team made up entirely of cancer survivors.

RELATED: Mixed dragon boat pulls cancer survivors together

“It’s for all ages, all physical abilities,” said Jennifer Loo, sponsor-developer for the Fairway Gorge Paddling Club. “Dragon boats are very inclusive, so it’s a wonderful community of paddlers.”

This popular event is Canada’s only dragon boat race run in a working harbour, and aside from excitement on the water, it also offers an international food court, a beer garden and live bands.

The event’s longest-running sponsor, Fairway Market, is also selling lanterns for $2 with all funds going to the BC Cancer Foundation. The lanterns will be lit and displayed along Ship Point for the Lights of Courage display on Friday at 9 p.m.

“We invite people to come back on Friday to hang the lanterns and spend a moment with everyone to celebrate someone’s life,” Loo said.

Bleachers will be set up on the parking lot at Ship Point to allow spectators to see the races better. For more information and to see the weekend schedule, you can visit victoriadragonboat.com.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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Tyler Cu, left, peers around trying to see as Ashley Chu, centre, and Yuto Loo dot the eye of a dragon head on a dragon boat during the traditional eye dotting ceremony to start the 22nd Annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival at Ship Point in the inner Harbour. File photo

Drummers, from left, from the drum group Uminara, Gayle Nye, Tsugio Kurushima and Ken Murata perform during the traditional eye dotting ceremony to start the 22nd Annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival at Ship Point in the inner Harbour. Hidden at back is drummer Susan Kurushima. Don Denton/Victoria News

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