Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival churns up lake in Leduc

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Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival churns up lake in Leduc

With paddles gripped and heads down with determination, hundreds of adults geared up for the 22nd annual Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival despite environmental challenges this year.

The festival is usually steered out of the Louise McKinney Riverfront Park, but this year moved to Telford Lake in Leduc because of the LRT construction across the North Saskatchewan River.

More than 500 people — 27 teams of 20 paddlers and a steersperson each — took part in the 500-metre races.  

The day at the races began slow, with races postponed after Environment Canada set Edmonton's air quality index at level 10, the highest risk to health.

Organizers held off and started the races later in the day as the air quality cleared.

Nikki Van Dusen, communications director with the Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival, was all smiles at the end of the races.

"There's just so much camaraderie, everybody knows everybody," she said of the festival.

"You've got really, really novice teams competing against really world-class teams but at the end of it all everyone has a beer."

Some teams were using the event to qualify for Dragon Boat Canada.

"We have some amazing high-quality teams," she said. "We have a lot of club teams that are using this as a qualifier for Dragon Boat Canada."

The Dragon Boat festival caps off Sunday with final races in the afternoon and an awards ceremony.

The Edmonton Dragon Boat Racing Club was formed in 1999, boasting co-ed, women, men, seniors and youth teams.

Since then, members and teams from the city have competed across Canada, the U.S. and abroad.

Anyone looking to join the dragon boat festival can get in touch with the association.