Rotary Dragon Boat Festival cancellation disappointing

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The 19th anniversary ATB Rotary Dragon Boat has been the latest Covid- 19 casualty. However festival chair Dan Westhora hopes the work the four local rotaryThe Chevelles were among the local acts scheduled to play the 2020 ATB Rotary Dragon Boat Festival. Photo by Richard Amery clubs and numerous volunteers have already  put into the event, originally scheduled for June 26-28, will lead to a bigger and better 20th Anniversary festival next year.


“We’ve been following Corvid 19 news since January and set a do or die date by mid April. We wanted to postpone the cancellation as long as possible,” Westhora  said, adding a number of reasons played into the decision to cancel this year’s event. The festival draws 1,500 athletes and, depending on the weather, between 15-20,000 people visiting over the weekend to see the races,  listen to a lot of live music and enjoy food trucks and vendors.


“A lot of money comes to the city because of the festival. But we’d rather everybody walk away happy and healthy after the festival,” he continued, adding part of the reason they cancelled is because the deadline for vendors to submit their deposits is also in April.


 Another reason is several teams travel the summer dragon boat circuit, some communities having cancelled their races already.
“Last year we had 68 teams and 40 of them travel. Some do the entire circuit, others only go to a few of them. We were talking to Edmonton and they’re likely to cancel their festival,” he said.


They were expecting 17 food vendors and an additional 13 or 14 selling merch. The deadline to  get involved with the festival was mid April.

 Westhora, who is also a member of the Mosaic Rotary Club, noted the cancellation also affects local rotary clubs.
“The festival raises a lot of money for the clubs, though that isn’t why we do it,” he said adding local service clubs including Rotary, but also other clubs including Kinsmen and Lions, clubs are thinking out of the box and thinking of new ways to work in the community.

“One club in Okotoks sponsored a young man to make face masks for health workers,” he observed.

 


Valerie McQuaid has been involved with the ATB Rotary Dragon Boat Festival for the past eight years. She was in charge of music this year and had an eclectic  line up of local performers including Kyle Gruninger, Adequate, the  Chevelles,  Old School,  Coyote junction,  Between Skis, Coda blues, Global Drums LCTA, LCI dancers,  Hoop dancer Maria Livingston, Scottish dancers, Dory Rossiter’s band Horizon and more.
“ I had most of the weekend booked and a few others we were talking to,” she said.


“ It’s very disappointing, but everyone understood,” she continued, adding she was looking forward to seeing hoop dancer Maria Livingston.
“ And Kyle Gruninger said he’d get a project together,” she continued.


“ I’m very grateful to all of these artists  because the pay isn’t a lot and to Shad Chollack from Sound Barrier who was going to do sound,” she said.
“ I love the camaraderie. I love to see artists supporting  each other and supporting this event,” she said, adding the artists booked this year will be  the first called for next year.
Artists interesting in performing next year can contact her at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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