The Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival will return to Maffeo Sutton Park July 9-10. (Nanaimo News Bulletin file)

The Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival will return to Maffeo Sutton Park July 9-10. (Nanaimo News Bulletin file)

Summer festival season starting this week in Nanaimo with dragonboat racing

Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival returns after two-year COVID-19 hiatus

After two years of COVID-19-related cancellations, organizers of the Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival are looking forward to a long-overdue beach party.

The festival is happening July 9-10 at Maffeo Sutton Park and this year’s theme is ‘Life’s a Beach Party,’ with paddlers and members of the public encouraged to dress in wacky beach attire. Erik Ages, race director of the Vancouver Island race series, said the two-year hiatus was hard on the dragonboating community.

“The race management group decided that people have been sitting on their hands for the last two years and that we’re making, I guess, lemonade out of lemons,” Ages told the News Bulletin. “The last two years have been really difficult, especially for people who are athletes … They’re people who love to compete and so the last few years have been really hard for people who who want to show up at the start line and race.”

Wolf Brewing Co. is hosting a beer garden at the festival and has named a special citrus-flavoured “Paddler Radler” in honour of the event. It’s in line with the lemons-to-lemonade motif, said Ages with a laugh.

“These radlers are pretty popular, so I think they’ve experimented and come up with something that they think is appropriate for the event,” he said.

Rob Regner, one of Wolf Brewing Co.’s owners, said the brewery is happy to host the beer garden.

“We’re incredibly excited to be a part of [the festival] and excited that the dragonboats are back after a long pause,” said Regner. “We’re excited to see everyone in the community getting back out and being able to enjoy this amazing event.”

The Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival races will run concurrently with Crimson Coast Dance Society’s Infringing dance festival.

“It’s going down at the same location during the festival weekend, and they’re having a big splash beach party on Sunday afternoon, at which point, some of the dragonboat paddlers will be judged on how extravagant their beachwear is,” Ages said.

The event seeks to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research.

For more information, including how to volunteer, go to

READ ALSO: Former dragonboat festival organizers donate to Nanaimo hospital foundation and hospice

READ ALSO: Infringing festival on from dawn to dusk

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