The Dragons of Hope always honoured those who lost their battle against breast cancer in their own way but this year they welcomed the whole community to join in.
The Dragon Boat team made up of mostly breast cancer survivors have participated in every festival since it started 14 years ago. The familiar pink themed boat always appeared on the waters of Boulevard Lake to perform a small ceremony for those who succumbed to cancer by throwing pink carnations into the water.
For years thee women on the boat did this alone but at this year’s festival held on Saturday they opened this ceremony to everyone in attendance. The group sold the carnations for a dollar or for a donation and by 11 a.m. they had completely sold out of the 200 flowers.
Hundreds gathered near the water and released the flowers as the Dragons of Hope paddled by.
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Doris Rossi, who founded the team, said including the community helps to bring more awareness to breast cancer.
“I think everyone in the community has had someone who has been touched by breast cancer like a sister, a mother, or a grandmother,” Rossi said. “It involves the community and this is the theme of our Dragon Boat Festival is community. We wanted the community to partake in this ceremony with us.”
She said survivors participate in Dragon Boat festivals all across Canada and it can become an emotionally charged event.
The number of teams that participated in this year’s festival dropped compared to last year. About 27 teams went into the water, which were eight teams less than last year. The lowest turnout was in 2010 with 26 teams.
In order to attract more teams, the festival shifted focus from a competitive event to a recreational one.
Festival chair Volker Kromm said the shift has helped steer the event into a better direction. The majority of the teams that did participate were new teams and that’s something that’s important to point out, he said.
“That kind of bodes well for next year,” Kromm said. “We’ve taken some of the edge off. People have been saying ‘has the event run its course’. Quite frankly with the feedback we’re getting, a lot of the teams that are competing will be registering for next year but that bodes well.”
He said he wasn’t looking to double this year’s numbers but was looking at a possible 50 per cent increase in teams next year.
The biggest challenge the event faces is getting corporations to partner with the festival and bring those teams into the mix, he added.
The festival is expected to wrap up around 5 p.m.
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