A much-loved feature on the summer festival lineup in Salmon Arm, the Shuswap Rowing and Paddling Club’s Dragon Boat Festival brings rowers and spectators alike to the Shuswap to witness these massive boats in action. After a cancellation in 2017 due to excessive smoke from wildfires, the announcement on the club’s website confirming there would also be no festival in 2018 came as a disappointment to many. However, David Miege, president of the Shuswap Rowing and Paddling Club, would like to assure the community the festival is not gone for good.
While the 2017 Dragon Boat Festival was cancelled for health and safety reasons, Miege says the lack of a festival in 2018 comes primarily from the Rowing and Paddling Club losing members of their board of directors who were crucial to the festival’s success.
“Normally we have an annual Dragon Boat festival. What happened is we’ve had a bit of a changeover in the board of directors, we’ve had five of our really key board members step down, Ted and Karin Crouch, Bill Grainger, Peter McLean and Chris Emmott. They all put in several years of service on the board, for which we are very grateful.” Miege says. “Dedicated people, fabulous for the Shuswap. But they put in their 10-15 years as volunteers and I think that’s more than you can ask of anybody.”
Rather than attempting to throw together what they could on short notice, the club’s current board of directors chose to step back, evaluate the situation and ensure that the next Dragon Boat Festival lives up to what the community has come to expect.
“That decision was made in the fall of last year, the new board looked at it and we thought we have a huge learning curve ahead of us, we have to get all our programs up and running while missing these people. We want to do the event, but we want to do it correctly. You can always force something to happen, but I think then you run some risks. Absolutely it is in the works for next year, I expect it will be one of those bigger and better than ever kind of events,” he says.
To tide eager dragon boaters over for the 2018 season, Miege says the club is looking at ways to get the dragon boat teams from around the region to come together for training sessions, public showcases and other smaller events in Salmon Arm.
“What we are planning on doing is another kind of new innovative thing, we’re hoping for the dragon boaters to have a very informal cooperative training session. Not just the ones from our club, but the other dragon boat teams in the Shuswap, to have them all sort of realize that they are all part of the same community. Hopefully it will just help to really bring things together and have a great event for next year,” he says.
While the Shuswap Rowing and Paddling Club cannot confirm the exact dates of these alternative dragon boating events, or the proposed dates for the 2019 Dragon Boat Festival, Miege says those interested should stay tuned for updates on the club’s Facebook page, or on their website.