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In terms of raw numbers, there's not much in the calendar year that can touch the Penticton Dragon Boat Festival.
And this year looks pretty darned similar to those that have come before it. The event, scheduled for this weekend (Sept. 9 and 10), will attract 76 teams and approximately 1,900 competitors to its longtime home at Skaha Lake Park.
Add in families and friends and race personnel and a couple dozen product and food vendors, and that number climbs up and over 2,000.
In a late summer season plagued by wildfire-induced event cancelations and a suddenly crushed hospitality sector, the 2023 edition of the festival, which looks like it'll be held in near-perfect environmental conditions, is a ray of sunshine.
"That travel ban just kind of killed everything," said veteran festival race director Don Mulhall, "and it put a scare into us too. But I think the numbers are beyond what we’ve hoped for.
"We've been to a few events around the province and the numbers have been down a little bit. I think the sport is taking a while to come back from COVID. But we're normally at 80 teams and right now we're at 76, and to me that's awesome."
So with just a couple days to go and all the teams that'll be here already registered, Mulhall wants the South Okanagan to know that his festival is a great place to be even if you're not racing.
"I maybe a bit biased," he said earlier this week, "but I think it's an awesome event to watch. It’s a real festival. There's a lot going on.
"We have tons of product vendors, we have tons of food vendors. And we have an absolute rocking beer garden run by the South Okanagan Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team."
One more thing. If you're virtually anywhere on the sand, you get a great view of the racing action. And that's because the course is smartly set up to parallel the beach.
"You can see the whole race course," said Mulhall. "And there's a brand new race starting every ten or 11 minutes.
"And then there are the team tents. They're everywhere. It's like we created a little city down there."
Action at the 2023 Penticton Dragon Boat Festival kicks off Saturday morning at 8 am and continues through to 3 pm or thereabouts. Same thing for Sunday.
The beer garden will open Saturday at noon and run to 6. Sunday it'll open directly after the event's breast cancer survivor ceremony at approximately 12:30 pm and again continue to 6. Warning: When the finals end mid-Sunday afternoon, the beer garden gets busier and crazier than ever.
For more info on the Penticton Dragon Boat Festival and the organization that puts it together (and runs paddling events and more throughout the warm months) turn here.