The Barrie Dragon Boat Festival was launched in 2003 and will celebrate their 15th Anniversary alongside the nation’s 150th birthday. The event is run by the Barrie Public Library who’s Philanthropy and Community Engagement Manager, Matt Mueller explains this year’s theme.

“We’re really incorporating Canada’s 150th into this years’ festival,” he says with lots of Canadian themed things like the Spirit Award they give out every year. This year they will make it a Canadian themed Spirit Award for the best of Canadian Spirit from a team at the city’s largest waterfront festival.

They will also be changing division names to Canadian themed divisions. The Races will go on all through the day in heats of four boats racing up and down the waterfront at a time.

The festival hosts 40 foot long boats with 20 paddlers in each that take part in 300-meter races. Anyone can register a team, with a maximum of 60 teams and 20-25 people in each that will race three times.

“The whole thing is for charity – the thing that makes it different from a typical charity event is that every team gets to pick what they want to put their money towards, explain Mueller.

Each team is required to raise a minimum of $500, and most of them are either from a charity or have a connection with a specific cause. For some charities, the boat race is their biggest fundraising event of the year, according to Mueller.

“We have breast cancer teams from all around Ontario – so it’s a team entirely made up of breast cancer survivors who put their money towards breast cancer research,” says Mueller.

Some of the teams get sponsored, and others sponsor themselves like the local Barrie team Ribbons of Hope who own their boat. There is also a waiting list for individuals who are not part of a team and would like to participate in the races.

The festival also has a vendor village where a variety of food is sold and a beer tent with live bands playing.

“There’s going to be some good entertainment this year, everything is going to be Canadian themed; a little bit bigger of a celebration for our 15th Anniversary,” says Mueller.

“We’re going to try and reflect on past years and bring back different aspects of the past, especially the people who have participated since it started.”

This will include a slideshow of pictures from the past and a story about the history of the event and Spirit Catcher featured on its’ logo.

“It really represents the spirit of Barrie and is a symbolic thing for Barrie”, says Mueller.

He stressed that it is an all-ages spectator and family friendly event with kids’ vendors in the village, arts and crafts and face painting. The day will also feature a health and wellness area and vendors offering yoga sessions.

“Come on and check it out; a lot of people don’t really realise how big the festival is if they’re not participating, but it is also a good, family-friendly event that can be fun for anyone whether they are participating or not.”

The festival takes place Aug. 26 at Barrie’s Heritage Park. For information, visit: www.barriedragonboatfestival.ca.