Don’t be afraid if you see a bunch of dragons on the mighty North Saskatchewan this weekend.

The 14th annual Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival takes place at Louise McKinney Riverfront Park starting Friday night with the opening ceremonies.

This year the racing will be just as fun as previous festivals but there’ll be an added incentive for the 49 competing boats.

“Just announced on Wednesday, we’re going to be sanctioned by Dragon Boat Canada as a qualifying event for Nationals,” said festival co-ordinator Christine Johnson.

“It seems to be catching on. There seems to be festivals in a lot of the major cities so it seems to be one of the fastest-growing sports.”

Ellen Husselby, a paddler for the Breast Friends team, said it’s the people that make the festival and sport so popular.

“I love the camaraderie. This is probably the world’s friendliest sport,” Husselby said.

“It’s hard work but my teammates are unbelievable. That’s what keeps me coming back.”

The Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival starts at 6 p.m. Friday and runs until Sunday with the closing of the beer gardens at 9 p.m.