Deemed by organizers and paddlers as one of the “best” dragon boat festival sites in Canada, Mooney’s Bay will play host to more than 70,000 people as the Ottawa Dragon Boat Race Festival kicks off later this month.

The first load of dragon boats arrived at Mooney’s Bay yesterday, signalling to racers, volunteers and organizers that the festival, held from June 19-21, is about to begin.

More than 70,000 people, including 5,000 racers rowing on 190 teams and 65,000 spectators are expected to attend, said John Brooman, executive director of the Ottawa Dragon Boat Race Festival and the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation.

Mooney’s Bay is the ideal site for the event, said festival logistics manager Mark Morrison.

Through speaking with participants, Morrison has heard the site is a great venue. There’s lots of room for spectators, and Mooney’s Bay is unique in that there’s a beach where attendees can spend their time.
“It’s one of the best locations in Canada,” he said.

The Ottawa Dragon Boat Race Festival began in 1993 with about 50 participants and has been growing since, said Brooman.

From participants to sponsors to volunteers — the event requires over 450, volunteer co-ordinator Leah Barton said — the Ottawa community has embraced the event, said Brooman.

The festival — the largest in North America — draws everyone from highly competitive paddlers coming from as far as the U.S., Toronto and Montreal, but also brings out local first-time teams, Brooman said.

The event infuses millions of dollars into the economy, but perhaps more importantly, the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation — which is separate from the festival — is expected to raise $300,000 for local charities this year.

For people who won’t be paddling, lots of entertainment is planned on site.

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