There’s nothing like the thrill of the chase to draw spectators to the 22nd edition of the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival. But as lung transplant recipient Britta Watts explains, there’s more to the event than the excitement of competition.

“(My teammates and I) are trying to do our very, very best in terms of time … but our main goal is to raise awareness of organ donation,” said Watts, who encourages everyone to fill out an organ donor card. Several members of her crew have received life-saving transplants, and they paddle to show their gratitude.

The Gift Of Life Transplant Team is one of 140 taking part in the festival as 27-member squads. Nearly 4,000 athletes, split by competitive and recreational divisions, will break waves in False Creek this Saturday and Sunday. Some paddle to bring attention to a cause, while others compete to eventually move on to a World Championship.

But there’s plenty to see and do apart from the races, the event organizers say.

Festivities will open with a Blessing Ceremony on Friday: the “Awakening of the Dragons,” with priests from the Evergreen Taoist Church.

The World Beat Stage will showcase contemporary music from around the world starting at 11 a.m., and food from the Spice Islands will be served.

There will also be an Aluminum Chef cooking competition on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and activities for children.

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