Maggie Cartwright isn’t a paddler.
But it didn’t stop the Montreal resident from coming out to what organizers are calling the “best ever” Ottawa Dragon Boat Race Festival yesterday.
“I haven’t missed it in about three, four years,” she said. “I love the boats and the energy of it all. This beach is so lovely. And there is such great music this year that you don’t have to (be involved in dragon boat) to come here.”
Cartwright wasn’t alone. While there were 5,000 paddlers on 190 teams from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Kingston and the U.S., spectators far outnumbered the participants when more than 60,000 people came out to Mooney’s Bay this weekend.
“We had a ton of spectators,” said the festival’s development officer Rosemary Vaughan.
In its 16th year, the event is possibly the best ever, said John Brooman, executive director of the Ottawa Dragon Boat Race Festival and the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation.
Mooney’s Bay has been great venue, Brooman said.
“The water is renowned for being one of the best places to paddle in North America,” he said. While this serves to attract competitive paddlers from far and wide, this year, the event seems “more community oriented,” as more local teams have signed up, Brooman said. Vaughan estimated that 80 per cent of the participants are from Ottawa.
The free entertainment was also a hit over the weekend, with the most popular being the East Coast party with ShanneyGanock, the African Guitar Summit and fiddler Ashley MacIsaac, said Brooman.
Having entertainment for the festival is a relatively recent addition that turned out to be highly successful, Brooman said.
Although fundraising totals won’t be finalized until next month, the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation — which is separate from the festival — is on track for hitting its fundraising target of $300,000 for eight local charities, including the Ottawa Sens Foundation/ Project s.t.e.p., the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, the OCRI School Breakfast Program and the Good Day Workshop.
“It’s encouraging that even in these economic times, that fundraising is continuing,” Brooman said.