THUNDER BAY - A revamped dragon boat festival focused on family fun instead of fierce competition was a success, say event organizers.
Family of Dragons Festival chairman Volker Kromm said after focusing on competitive racing for 15 years, they decided to redirect the festival on family activities.
"What we're seeing is lots more young families coming, with even grandmas and grandpas," said Kromm.
"I think the atmosphere and the mood is changing," he added, noting the festival even saw two teams from Fort Hope First Nation this year.
"It adds a new regional element, which I think we're really excited about."
The first Family of Dragons Festival saw 26 teams participate in the races this past weekend at Boulevard Lake; there was one competitive race and four non-competitive races.
Kromm said when the festival first started, there was a push for the event to be competitive, but over the years, people have grown frustrated with the level of competitiveness.
"That takes away from some of that recreational aspect that we're looking forward to," said Kromm.
"We're making a push towards being inclusive."
That push includes having as many activities on land as in the water and also removing the beer tent and adding more food options, with a focus on having local food vendors at the park.
Festival organizers also put the onus of fundraising on the four charities involved - the Catholic Family Development Centre, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Canadian Diabetes Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.
"It engages them," said Kromm. "They partner with the teams and encourage them to donate."
Kromm said it also takes work off the organizers who are already busy with race and event site logistics.
While the majority of this year's teams have already committed to return next year, the future of the festival is up in the air if the city goes ahead with the Boulevard Lake dam rehabilitation project.
Kromm said if the project goes ahead next year, they will have to find a new location for the races, but he's also excited to move the festival to another location.
"It's an opportunity to engage the community in a different way," he said.
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