It was Saturday, September 15, when I saw the dragons breathing fire down Lake Victoria! They were going so fast while the roar of the fans cheered them on! Okay, so there weren't really dragons; but there were dragon boats and the fans were cheering from 8 in the morning till well after 7 at night. It was the annual Rotary Club Dragon Boat Festival in Stratford and oh what excitement was brewing!
The Rotary Club did a FANTASTIC job of organizing such a great event and had such a great logo -- it would make you want to paddle fast to get away from this dragon! There were over 70 teams frantically rowing down the lake from the Waterloo Bridge east to Tom Patterson Island, a total race course length of 1,640.4 ft. There were 4 racing lanes, each lane only 33' wide -- which really isn't very wide when you consider the length of these dragon boats. There were always 8 boats in the water -- 4 getting filled with new rowing teams and paddling up the lake to the starting line, while trying to stay away from the 4 boats racing down to the finish line.
As each of the 4 teams were called to the Island, they started exercising and doing jumping jacks to limber up their muscles for the next race. They would then get in their assigned dragon boat and start paddling up to the starting line.
To get a good overview of the activities, I walked on the north side of the lake to see the rowers getting into their boats and start on their event as well as all the fans along the tent route cheering on their friends. All the races, splashing, cheering and drumming seemed to get the attention of all the wildlife. The swans and ducks, for the most part, stayed east of all the events. But I did come across this cormorant that was intently watching all the boats going up and down the lake, only about 30' from him. I guess all the rowing stirred up all the fish in the lake and was providing an appetizing view for this bird, but he dare not attempt to catch any fish as he might have got hit on the head with a paddle!
I know if you look at the picture above, you might think they weren't sure which direction they were supposed to be going. But this event was all very organized and timed to the second as to who was racing and who was getting ready to race. The picture below shows two teams paddling up to the starting line and getting some encouraging words for the race.
On Your Mark! Get Set!!!
And they're off! After the first few hundred feet, there isn't anyone pulling ahead yet!
And as they near the finish line, they are neck-in-neck! All day -- for 11 hours -- the races continued to go on!
So for this race, the winning dragon boat was #1. But there were a total of 56 races throughout the day, each race a winner moving up the ladder in an attempt to claim the grand prize. At the end of the day, "Will Paddle for Rice -- Final Helping" took 1st Place with a time of 2.10.86 -- so a big congratulations to them. In 2nd place, PDBC Masters took 2.19.12, and 3rd place went to Bearing Arms at 2.20.94. A big congratulations to all the participants for a great race and wonderful entertainment. Also, much appreciation to all the sponsors, including the Plantinum Sponsor of Sun Life Financial without whose support, I am sure this event couldn't take place. But most appreciation to the Rotary Club of Stratford for a job well done and much fun for all participants and fans.
But as the sun was setting, the partying was still going on for all of those that were left -- whose muscle pains obviously had diminished with the thrill of a great day. But as I walked over the bridge, I saw 3 birds diving under water and staying there for about 30 seconds. As one of the birds' heads popped up out of the water, I realized that the cormorant had finally been able to take advantage of the smorgasbord that was left for him and his two buddies -- a lake full of fish that were also slowing down after a busy day of getting out of the way of the dragons.
Heather and her family moved to Stratford, Ontario, in the summer of 2012. This artsy family shares their travel experiences as they venture out from their front porch to their new local Perth County. Heather shares her nature and floral photography, as well as the sculptures that Dawna carves, the original jewellery that Ann and Dawna design, and the artwork that Dawna and Holley create.