Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/9/2017 (285 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The steady beat of drums on dragon boats echoed across the Red River again this weekend, before a cone of silence fell over the paddlers, the fundraisers and their fans in a solemn ceremony.
The annual Manitoba Dragon Boat Festival supports Cancer Care Manitoba and the Children’s Hospital Foundation, drawing thousands to The Forks for one weekend every September.
The competition is fierce, with dozens of corporations fielding teams, raising pledges and training in the art of dragon boat racing. Horns blare across the river every few minutes all weekend. The rhythm of the drum keeps beat with paddlers and loudspeakers announce a new heat every few minutes.
Sixty teams hit the waters, each with 20 paddlers.
They compete in two races against the clock, and on the final day, their third race is against the teams closest to their best race times. Each race runs a course of 500 metres, from the riverbank close to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights south on the Red to the confluence of the Assiniboine River and back. The loops takes a couple of minutes to complete.
In the previous five years, the dragon boat races have raised more than $1.5 million in support of Manitoba children with cancer. The event supports both pediatric clinical trials as well as treatments. Partly as a result of the event’s fundraising success, Manitoba supports more clinical trials for pediatric cancer per capita than any other province in Canada.
And this year, organizers said they were on track with fundraising expectations.
The event ends each year with the same silence at the riverbank.
Each year, the families of three children consent to have photos and tiny biographies distributed with pebbles and flowers. Participants toss the pebbles and flowers into the river and keep the cards.
This year, the children were Mia, 4; Oona, 3; and Sophia, 2. They’re all undergoing gruelling treatment regimens.
"It’s the only time when there is silence," Cancer Care spokeswoman Patti Smith said Sunday.
"It’s a very moving ceremony. Everybody in the three boats (that have raised the most money) and the other three boats with breast cancer survivors are out on the river. Everyone else is on shore. We all throw in the pebbles and the petals at the same time."
Fundraising at this level also involves some intense rivalry.
Steve Kroft, Conviron CEO, created a team of paddlers dubbed the Conviron Castaways in his race to raise the most money for the event.
Kroft was one of two Cancer Care board members neck and neck on Sunday as the top fundraisers of the year, each team having raised more than $30,000 in pledges.
"We’re all touched with it. Everyone is touched by cancer and the work that Cancer Care does," Kroft said as the sachets of pebbles and bouquets of carnations were passed around on the riverbank prior to the closing ceremony.
The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) team figured by the end of the weekend that if there was a trophy for most improved, they might be the winners.
"It was the longest minute and a half of my life," Lynn Kennedy said as her CPR team, Train that Dragon, finished its final heat Sunday afternoon.
"It’s only our second year," Kennedy said. "And we came in second in our heats. That’s 100 per cent better. Last year, we came in dead last."
Alexandra believes every story has a life of its own with a heartbeat and body and legs. She’ll probe for a pulse and check out its shape from every which way, until she feels it and sees it. So be patient with her. She can be exasperating.