June 28, 2012 ─ This coming July 20, 21 and 22, 2012, the Olympic Basin in Parc Jean-Drapeau will be aflame with colour and tradition during the 17th edition of the Montréal International Dragon Boat Festival. Some 200 crews of 20 to 48 paddlers each will go dragon head to head in highly-decorated boats measuring 12 to 37 metres (40 to 120 feet) long. Teams from Montréal will compete against crews from around the world in races of 250 metres and 500 metres to the cries of the enthusiastic crowd on the shore.
While on the water the competition is fierce, on land it’s a fantastic celebration of Chinese culture:
dragon parades, martial arts demonstrations, multicultural performances, arts and crafts, ritual ceremonies, traditional costumes, children’s games, drawing contest, typical fare…with something for everyone, the 50 000 spectators expected at this event will certainly delight in the festivities!
While 2012 marks the 17th edition of this popular Montréal happening, this special Chinese celebration really began over 2000 years ago. Dragon boat races were first held to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan, a great patriotic Chinese poet from the Chu kingdom who, after his capital was overtaken by the Qin kingdom, threw himself into the Miluo River. His body was never recovered. The legend states that the villagers beat drums and splashed water with their paddles to keep fish and evil spirits away from his body, and threw rice into the water as a food offering to Qu Yuan’s spirit and to distract fish away from his body. The act of racing to search for his body in boats gradually became the cultural tradition of dragon boat racing.
Dragon boat racing has spurred numerous festivals around the world, Montréal included, whose annual festival has become an important event in the summer calendar. Admission is free.