Don Mulhall couldn’t have asked for a better day of racing.
The director for Penticton Dragonboat Festival watched under the blue skies Saturday, Sept. 9, as 76 teams from as far as Calgary and Victoria came out fast and furious to kick off the 22nd edition of the end-of-summer event.
It may have been slightly hazy but that didn’t put a damper on the annual party for the thousands of participants and spectators alike.
“We kind of built our own little village here,” Mulhall said when asked of the dozens of teams who travelled more than 300 kilometres to make it to Penticton.
“It’s a pretty cool community we have and there’s a ton of people having a great time…all sorts of athletes are here and that’s what makes it so fun, too.”
The festival made its first splash at 8:30 a.m., when four teams entered Skaha Lake for the opening 500-metre race.
New races begin every 11 minutes, with teams on Saturday aiming to qualify for Sunday’s finals.
A team from Victoria was crowned Penticton Dragonboat Festival champions in 2022.
Dragon boat racers at the event range in age from 19 to nearly 90 years old.
But it’s not just the races that make the festival special.
After all, when adding up how much combined time one team could spend in the water this weekend, it comes out to only around 10 minutes. And that’s why beyond the competitiveness in the lake, all the hours that teams from across Western Canada spend with one another remain a festival highlight for Mulhall.
“About 1 p.m. on Sunday, that’s when the community just lights up,” Mulhall explained. “Many teams have finished their races, they meet at the beer garden and enjoy…it’s really a community and such a social group.”
Mulhall is one of many local individuals who help make the Penticton Dragonboat Festival a reality every year.
Along with the dozens of volunteers, there are also people in the water who keep time on each of the more than 300 races.
Among those sitting in a boat, watching the 76 teams hit the lake is Liam Mulhall, who’s responsible for ensuring dragon boats are ready to race safely.
“It’s great to see how happy the festival makes everyone here, so enjoyable and a great place to be,” he said.
Food trucks and other vendors can be seen inside Skaha Lake Park for the festival, which continues Sunday at 8:30 a.m.