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Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival

The waters in Maffeo Sutton Park in Nanaimo will be choppy and foaming but not due to the weather. July 7 – 9, 2017 is the 14th annual Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival presented by Save On Foods. Watch 70 teams of 20 athletes as they propel their massive dragon boats towards the finish line. Listen to the drummer keep the paddling rythym, the captain will shout commands to stay the course. The paddlers will beat the foaming water back – surging for that finish. It’s a heart-pounding, exciting event for the participants and spectators.

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Plan to spend the day watching the races but come for the on-shore events too. Fuel up at the Shriners pancake breakfast, snack at a food truck then hang out at the Longwood Brewery beer garden. Whew! That in itself is a beast of a competition. Don’t forget to support the athletes at the Carnation Ceremonies – honouring those affected by cancer.

Read our preview of the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival by FestivalSeekers writer Nancy Shields.

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Featured Events

Candle Ceremony  -  Swy-a-Lana Lagoon
9:15 pm Friday July 7th

The day is all about joyous celebrations but there is a moment of seriousness to pay tribute to anyone affected by cancer. A lone piper followed by the dragon boating breast cancer survivors carrying a lit candle will walk to the shore of Swy-a-lana Lagoon. It’s a touching moment – watching the participants release their candles to the currents of the waves. Candles are for sale throughout the day so anyone can participate.

Beer Gardens Dragon Boat Festival

Opening Ceremony - Swy-a-Lana Lagoon
Noon Saturday July 8th

The races have been going on all morning but the action on the water stops for a few minutes to welcome the racers and the spectators. The Snuneymuxw First Nations traditional ceremony will happen. Take in the blessing the water and the dragon boats and “dotting the eye”. While many racers will head back to the waters, spectators can stroll over to the beer gardens.

Carnation Ceremony

Dairyland Carnation Ceremony - Swy-a-lana Lagoon
Noon Saturday July 8th

This is the part of the event where emotions run high. The paddlers, many still in outlandish costumes or sporting pink life jackets walk under an arch of paddles to Swy-a-Lana Lagoon. Each carrying a single long-stem pink carnation. The Pink Carnation Ceremony is very symbolic. It pays tribute to the lives of the survivors, those battling the disease and honouring those who have lost that tough. After a few words about breast cancer awareness, the flowers heavy with silent hopes and prayers are tossed to the waters.

Silly Boat Regatta

Some of the silliest characters in Nanaimo are planning their strategy to participate in one of the craziest events this side of the Rockies! So join us Sunday, July 16th, 2017 at Maffeo Sutton Park (Swy-A-Lana Lagoon) as more than 50 teams build the silliest of ships and sail them in the Nanaimo Harbour. Boat building begins at 8 AM. - Races start at 1 PM. The Silly Boat Regatta is entertaining to watch, whether you're 9 or 90 - you will be guaranteed a great time! Interested in registering a team for the Silly Boat Race? Click here.

The schedule for the Silly Boat races is as follows:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

8:00 AM
Boat Building begins.

10:00 AM   
Join Coast Capital Savings up near the main stage (Frank Ney Statue) and design a pair of sunshades as unique as you are!

10:00 AM   
Visit the Pavilion Family Area to check out the many vendor booths for fun activities, crafts, face painting and more, proudly sponsored by Coast Capital Savings!

10:00 AM   
McDonald's Restaurants "Sports Zone" for sports oriented fun.

10:00 AM   
Children’s Mini Regatta with mini boat building, games & colouring.

1:00 PM   
Silly Boat Regatta Races start in the inner harbour.

2:30 PM   
Grand Championship Race - all heat winners will race one last time for the Grand Champion Trophy.

If you go:

The events are free to all those wishing to attend the races. There are fees for participation in events and activities during the festival. For more information on these events, and to check out the itinerary for the weekend, please visit the festival website.

Read our preview of the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival by FestivalSeekers writer Nancy Shields.

Grab a snack while checking out the Dragon Boat Festival and Silly Boat Regatta! Did you know Nanaimo is home to the Nanaimo Bar Trail? If you have time, take a tasty self-guided adventure through the city and sample some treats. 

With so much to see and do in Nanaimo, you’ll want to make it a vacation. Check out these places to stay while visiting.

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