NANAIMO — Maffeo Sutton Park will see huge crowds for the 16th annual Dragon Boat Festival, which launches Nanaimo's busy summer events season.
Twenty-two paddlers on 58 teams hit the ocean off Maffeo Sutton Park Saturday and Sunday for the annual event. Spokeswoman Leslie Sutton said the park will have several food trucks, entertainment, and a beer garden.
Sutton said the popular event draws many breast cancer survivors and has raised about $700,000 for the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation over the past 15 years.
“Everyone is so happy and pleasant, some of them are excited just to be alive,” Sutton said.
She noted the Nanaimo Community Hospice is a new beneficiary of the popular event.
Sutton estimated about 1,700 paddlers, their family and friends will be at Maffeo Sutton Park during the weekend.
Racing goes Saturday and Sunday between 9 a.m and 3:30 p.m.
Karen Bannister of Tourism Nanaimo said major events like this are critical to a community's health economically and socially.
“Individuals participating in an event like dragon boat are coming from far and wide bringing family and friends with them. They're filling up our hotel rooms and campgrounds and spending money.”
Bannister said other spin-offs involve creating community pride among locals and expanding the community's awareness to new people.
“That benefits everybody so we can continue to improve our facilities, improve our city and have a better quality of life for not just visitors but the people who live here too.”
The annual Silly Boat Regatta and Nanaimo Marine Festival are on deck the following two weekends respectively.
More information on Dragon Boat Festival is available here.
On Twitter: @reporterholmes
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