June 16, 2016

Festival and Dragon Boat History

dragon boat team on the water

The Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival Association (EDBFA) was formed in 1996 and hosts an annual festival each year during the third weekend in August – rain or shine. The EDBFA also runs an annual season practice grid where teams train for the Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival as well as for other festivals occurring across Canada. From the social recreational paddler to competitive teams looking for a berth at the national level, to represent Canada in international competitions – there is a team for everyone in our association.

Practices are scheduled and held at Rafters’ Landing located at (98 Avenue & 97 Street) on the south side of the river by the Edmonton Queen Riverboat’s docks. This practice and meeting site is clearly recognized by a colorful dragon mural painted on our trailer and shares the site with the Edmonton Queen Riverboat office.

The volunteer spirit along with the  genuine passion of the sport is evident in the EDBFA board. This volunteer driven working board consist of 5 executive positions, numerous Directors and Members at large along with Committee Leads. Without the valuable time and energy offered the board would not exist.

As we approach our 22nd year we look forward to creating more memories with each of you.

Dragon Boat History

dragon boatsThe origin of dragon boat racing can be traced to events that happened in southern China over 2,000 years ago.  Originally, boats adorned with dragonheads were part of a fertility rite as a way to encourage plentiful rains and a good harvest.

Dragon boat racing within the context of a festival became much more important in Chinese culture with the tragic events surrounding Qu Yuan (pronounced Chu Yuan) around 277 BC. Qu was a senior minister, diplomat, and poet in the Ch’u feudal kingdom.  As a man of integrity and wisdom, he gave truthful advice to the king, advice that angered his political rivals.  These rivals persuaded the king to banish Qu Yuan. Despondent over his exile and the subsequent decline of the government, Qu put stones in his pocket and drowned himself in the Mi Lo River.  When local fishermen raced out to rescue him, they beat their drums and splashed with their paddles to scare the fish and water dragons away from Qu Yuan’s body. They also threw rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves into the water, hoping that the fish would eat the dumplings and leave the body alone.

To commemorate their beloved Qu Yuan, the people of southern China staged dragon boat races to remember the day when they raced into the river in an attempt to save him.  The dragon boat races, and the serving of rice dumplings or rice cakes, became an annual event on the fifth day of the fifth month, believed to be the day that Qu Yuan drowned in the Mi Lo River.

Dragon boat races are now held world wide internationally at all levels. The ideals of Qu Yuan are still honored through Taoist ceremonies, the spirit of the paddlers and the invitation and involvement of the local community. Through the festivals’ many activities, people are reminded of the importance of loyalty and commitment to the well being of the people in the community.