June 10, 2004

Welland Dragon Boat Racing celebrates its 3rd festival in town, which is quickly becoming a local favourite and a tourism draw.  Since the International Dragon Boat Federation has awarded Canada as host of the International Dragon Boat Championship, the upcoming festival will help prepare the nation for the world championship.  Dragon Boat originated in ancient Asian culture, but the sport now enjoys worldwide appeal, with past hosts cities including Wellington, Nottingham, Shanghai, Rome, and Sydney.  The Welland Dragon Boat Festival brought this racing to local culture, which significantly enhances the area culture and financial development.  Canadian has participated in the sport with great achievement – Canadian women have won the world championships five of the last seven years and Canada’s men’s and mixed crews are current world champions.

Dragon Boat Racing, this ultimate team sport, is growing exponentially worldwide with annual growth rate of 30% to 40% growing.  With 24 teams competing in the inaugural event, it was estimated by organizers between 800 and 1000 people took part as competitors and spectators throughout the day.  Over a period of two days in the last festival, the banks of the Welland Recreational Canal were lined with over 5000 athletes and spectators.  The whole town enjoyed the energy brought by the festival.

This festival is really a showcase in North America.  The Festival Organizer Frank Rupcic said that the water in Welland is just the showcase in the whole area; the water is fabulous.  “Because the incomparable advantage shows in the water course around the city, we have great confidence to host this big event in Welland” said Rupcic.  When asked about the statistics of teams about this year compared to the last year, he continues:  “We also expect 35 local teams this year comparing to 20 local teams last year, since we are trying to enhance the local team.”

These big dragons will bring good fortune to city or rural businesses.  During last year’s festival the hotels were filled with visitors from all over North America, and the streets surrounding the old Welland Canal were lined with cars parked back-to-back and the canal bank was crowded with several thousand people.  If the city succeeds in its bid to host the World Championship, it will mean thousands more from all over the globe.

“For Welland to host the world dragon boat championship, would be a way for us show off what we have to a world audience.  It’s a foregone conclusion that people from abroad would admire and appreciate it, probably much more than we do here” says Rupcic.  Welland continues to enhances its capacity, with the hopes of hosting the world championship in 2006 – an ideal way to enhance the city’s reputation in the world setting.