Avalon Dragons see big increase in registration for this year’s Paddle in Paradise

By Mark Squibb / August 11, 2023

Deck: Group sees big increase in registration numbers

The Sunsplash Paddle-in-Paradise Avalon Dragon Boat Races is just a week away, and Avalon Dragons chairperson Alice Mannion said that things are going swimmingly leading up to the big event.

“COVID wasn’t good to us,” said Mannion. “The last festival we had before COVID, back in 2019, we had 33 teams. Last year, we had eight. And I think that was a combination of people not wanting to gather, and Come Home Year… This year, I’m really pleased. I had hoped for more, and we have 18 crews racing this year, so I am just over the moon.”

Each boat is manned by a team of 20, making for 360 paddlers participating in this year’s event.

And it’s not just for boating-enthusiasts — the Avalon Dragons are encouraging families to come out to Octagon Pond to watch the races and participate in the many pondside activities.

“We consider it an all-around family day,” said Mannion. “There are lots of activities, besides what’s happening on the pond. There’s face-painting, there’s a Chinese letter writing craft, where a couple of members of the Chinese community will show children how to write their name in Chinese symbols. We’ll also have some games of chance.”

The event begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, August 19. At 11 a.m., Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador Judy Foote, herself a breast cancer survivor, will participate in a pondside Carnation Ceremony.

At 2 p.m., members of the Chinese community will also be hosting a traditional dance, which Mannion said is not to be missed.

The festival is an opportunity for people to witness dragon boating firsthand, and it may be enough to encourage some folks to pick up a paddle of their own one day.

“We want to get people out to watch the races, but also to get the itch to get out on the pond,” said Mannion. “People can Dragon Boat all season long. They don’t need to limit it to just the festival.”

While it’s too late to register for this season, Avalon Dragons typically opens registration in late February or early March. Registration is open until around the first of August. And while Avalon Dragon crews are comprised entirely of breast cancer survivors, anybody can feel free to register a crew of their own.

Most teams that register are ‘festival teams,’ which means they get a crash course in Dragon Boating ahead of race day, while other teams, such as the Rock Island Dragons, are community teams that paddle throughout the season and even compete outside the province.

Because teams are mixed, there must be a minimum of eight women on a 20-person crew.

The annual festival is the group’s main fundraiser.

“This is how we make the money that allows us to operate throughout the year,” said Mannion, who added the group makes a donation to Daffodil Place and to the Women’s Cancer Conference from the funds raised.

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