We attend the VIP party for te Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat Festival Chail Jas Kalsi talks about importance of a boat house for dragon boats on False Creek to sponsors, politicians and dragon boat festival organizers.

The VIP tent was packed on the eve to the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.  Politicians and digniteries walked in from the eye-dotting ceremony conducted by Taoist priests.  Parks Commissioner and former Gung Haggis dragon boat team paddler Stuart Mackinnon dotted one of the eyes with a paint brush.

Lots of great food was served in the VIP tent.  Sockeye Salmon, Tuna on wild rice patties, corn chowder – all provided from the VCC culinary arts program.

But this year's VIP party also had a serious tone.  On Tuesday, the Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival Society had sent a letter to Vancouver City Council, stating that because of development on Falser Creek, the 21 year old festival was in jeopardy.  Festival Chair Jas Kalsi talked about the issue to the audience. 

VIP party was attended by Mayor Robertson, councilors Ellen Woodsworth,
Suzanne Anton, Raymond Louie, George Chow, and Andrea Reimer, as well
as Parks Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon, and Sen. Nancy Green Raine who said that the federal government will pledge $100,000 to the RTA Festival. 

Robertson said he supports councilor Raymond Louie's statements,
that city council supports dragon boats on False Creek, and things are
moving through the planning stage.  Robertson also shared that his son
is paddling in his first dragon boat race.

Terry Hui, CEO of Concord said that Concord is committed to the Festival.
See Concord's commitment in yesterday's 24 Hours story

Members of the Festival board
and Race Committee talked to the politicians.  I also talked with
Concord Pacific's senior vice-president of planning – Matt Meehan, who wants to come to the next Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner, as he remembers seeing me perform at Jenny Kwan's scotch tasting parties.

I chatted with Mayor Robertson (who has attended the last 2
Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinners), and he told me which team his son is paddling on.  I informed him that his son was being coached by one of our Gung Haggis paddlers Gayle Gordon.

Dragon boat coach and former Olympic sprint kayak paddler, Kamini Jain, brought me 5 copies of the new dragon boat book “Paddles Up! Dragon Boat Racing in Canada.”  You can bet that the other
paddlers/organizers/coaches were all jealous when they saw them.  Kamini had written the chapter on coaching, and I had asked her to autograph copies for myself and my friends (Gayle and Stuart).  And…. I was able to introduce Kamini to Sen. Nancy
Green Raine (former Olympic ski gold medalist) – just before Sen. Nancy
left the party.

One thought on “We attend the VIP party for te Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival

  1. Anonymous

    Todd, as discussed earlier, the origins of dragon boating are other than as described in your blog.
    The 1st suggestion for a 'dragon boat festival' to be held outside of China was in 1945, October 10 to be exact (Double Tenth, which is important to Taiwanese for political-historical reasons.) The suggestion was for Vancouver to celebrate Tuen Ng Jit / Duan Wu Jie summer solstice festival the same way New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras. (Reference: Vancouver Sun, 45-10-10). After the bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Pacific war ended and rebuilding trade and commerce post-war was a priority. Even then, Vancouver was the “Gateway to the Pacific (Rim)”, which would be promoted, along with multiculturalism many decades later. 1946 was to be the Diamond Jubilee or 60th anniversary of Vancouver's founding. But no dragon boat races seem to have been started then.
    Fast forward to 1986, Vancouver's Centennial. Hundreds of communities help mark the celebration, and the Chinese Cultural Centre (of Vancouver) was entirely responsible for bringing the DBs to False Creek. The theme of Expo 86 was transportation. The Hongkong High Commission to Canada supported the idea and paved the way for Hongkong Day at Expo in June to be observed through, among other things, dragon boat races in teak wooden boats manufactured in HK and donated by various corporate sponsors from the private sector involved in HKG-CDA business.
    The actual “grandfather” of dragon boat races and festival is the late Dr. Wah Leung, one of several BC-born children of immigrant Chinese who were among the first professionals of Chinese ethnic origin in BC.
    Milton Wong is the father of the Canadian International Dragon Boat festival along with David Lam, and they supported this development 3 years after the CCC began the first races outside of China using authentic boats from Asia. (Boston and Toronto earlier had races but did not use authentic boats.)
    So it's important to get the facts straight, that dragonboating here was originated by members of the local Chinatown community and due to its popularity and political value at a time when there was a backlash against “chinese monster houses” following the outpouring of private HKG capital due to the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, the 'Alcan' festival was born. (Alcan wasn't the first event title sponsor, but is now the longest one.)
    The teak wooden boats were gifted to the city and it's inaugural festival organizers, whereas the Alcan festival folks (e.g. A. Phelps) have mounted a “home for the False Creek dragon boats” campaign in the media. It's great to see your blog has picked up on all of this, and it's even better to know the actual origins where credit is due perhaps.


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