Drums and dragon boats on the river

by | Jul 9, 2024

Woodstock hosts first dragon boat races with great success

Drums on The River
Woodstock hosts first dragon boat races
By Connor Barry

The beat of the drums. The cheers of the crowd. The rhythmic sound as the oars struck the water.

Those sounds filled the air during Woodstock’s inaugural Dragon Boat races during July 1st Floats events on Canada Day.

“Dragon boat racing originated in southern China over 2,000 years ago. The craft “is approximately 40 feet … generally holds 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steersperson,” said lead organizer Lisa Porter.

In dragon boat racing, instead of prioritizing Individual strength, the focus is on teammates maintaining synchronization to propel the boat as fast as possible.

The boat is led by the drummer, who signals to the rowers when to paddle through their drum beats.

“I first got involved [with Dragon Boat] at my old high school in Toronto. We had a very large team there — six boats or about 120 students,” said Porter.

When Porter returned to Woodstock and saw that the waterfront was seldom used, she began brainstorming ways to get more people out on the water.

“Then I thought of Dragon Boat, ” she explained.

With this idea in mind, Porter began to plan and organize quickly.

Before long, the Woodstock Rotary Club and the town council began supporting Dragon Boat.

The Woodstock Rotary provided the funds necessary to purchase the boats, and the council allowed them to be set up at the docks and provided security gates to protect them.

The DIY race saw homemade rafts take to the river. Here Violet Prosser (left) and Kerry Albright do their best to steer their watercraft. (Connor Barry photo)

This support, combined with the drive shown by Porter and her board of directors, proved successful.

Ten teams were formed from local community groups, including the Woodstock Rotary Club, the town of Woodstock, and Woodstock High School.

Area corporations, including McCain Foods, entered boats in races.

All teams paid a small fee to participate, which went to hiring 22 Dragons, a Montreal-based organization that assisted with organizing, coaching, and officiating.

Friends Issac Macpherson and Caden Sincennes successfully managed to cross the finish line during the canoe race. (Connor Barry photo)

Crowds gathered on both sides of the river and on top of a nearby bridge to watch the races in numbers not seen downtown since the total solar eclipse earlier this year.

“The races were exhilarating!” said Sarah MacPherson, who participated in them. 

MacPherson later said that everyone on her team had a fun time.

“I think our Canada Day regatta was hugely significant,” said Porter when asked how important she believed the day’s events were to growing dragon boating in Woodstock.

“We feel very embraced and supported by the community,” she continued.

The organizers announced the top three teams when the day’s events had concluded. 

Third was In Deep Ship, the Woodstock Community Clubs Team.

The team members of the R.E.O Speed Dragons (left) and Ships N’ Giggles put on a good show by using all their strength to try and beat each other to the finish line. REO Speed Dragons were the only all-female team in the races. (Connor Barry photo)

In second was the team representing Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Lastly, This is How We Row, a team from Woodstock High School, took first place.

With the Canada Day races a resounding success, it is all but certain that this will not be the last time dragon boats are seen and drums are heard on the Meduxnekeag.

The trio, Abby Hunter, Victoria McDermid, and Bobby Hunter, paddle their way to the finish line during the canoe race. (Connor Barry)

Woodstock Paddle Club President Lisa Porter tries her best to paddle upstream during the floaties race. (Connor Barry)

One of the McCain Foods’ teams, The Spud Cutters, does their best to push for the win. (Connor Barry photo)

Canada Day in Woodstock

 Wotstak First Nation representative Shawn Sappier and Royal Canadian Legion President Sonja Foster prepare to raise the Maliseet flag on the Legion flagpole. (Connor Barry photo)
These young musicians, from left, Dave Young, Miguel Fuellas, Joey Estanes, and Sam Bangsil were some of the many musical talents that delighted attendees during the event. (Connor Barry photo)
Steve’s Sausages owners Steve and Alice Sahigian were one of the many vendors on hand for the crowds that gathered at the July 1st Floats event on the Woodstock waterfront. (Connor Barry photo)

Katie Woodland, owner of Katie’s Creations, displayed her products during the Canada Day festivities. (Connor Barry photo)
Bryson Mitchell, owner of the Lazy River Candle Company, had a successful day with his pop-up shop at the event. (Connor Barry photo)

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