Monthly Archives: June 2013

Great time at the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival – Gung Haggis team races for medals in E Championship,

Wonderful 3 days of Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.

Saturday afternoon, we finished our last race, and we are still a happy bunch.  Of course, we recruited the “dragons” to join us for our team picture.

Friday: we take our 5 person parade dragon down for opening night

Saturday: host TSA Dragon Flyers from California, our Gung Haggis team welcomes rookie paddlers, returning paddlers and guest paddlers from Go Ju Go.

Sunday: we raced for a medal in E Championship, and witness steady improvement with our paddlers. Our guests TSA Dragon Flyers won Gold in Rec D Championship.

Lots of fun, new friends, old friends… simply wonderful.

We had a joint team dinner on Saturday night at Floata Restaurant in Vancouver Chinatown, where I had to simultaneously attend a banquet dinner for the Irish & Scottish Studies International Conference, organized by the Centre for Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University. The conference featured a Gung Haggis Fat Choy-styled dinner, so I invited dragon boaters to help carry our 5 person dragon to help lead the procession of the haggis. California paddlers were very keen to help out.  In this picture l-r is Anthony, Laura, Steven (from Gung Haggis), Billie and Jose.

Sunday Morning – welcome to the Church of Dragon Boating – as first we lifted veteran paddler Keng into the air, then now in this picture we lift Albert – who is 2 times as heavy as Keng.

Before our final race, our team relaxes by doing a group circle massage.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy team raced for a medal in Rec E Championship, but while we came 1st in lane one last year for the Rec D Consolations, alas, we came 8th in 2013. While Geoff George of TSA had steered for us in our 3 earlier races, the TSA team had to race 22 min later in the D Final, so our guest steersperson was my friend Suzi Cloutier from Portland’s Wasabi Team Huge.  Suzi paddled in the Women’s A Final to come in 2nd place, then stayed on the dock to await our team. She took control of our boat, and gave us lots of encouragement, while drummer Deborah Gee give us the calls for our starts and power series.  Assistant Coach Debbie Poon gave Deborah prompts, while we both yelled out along with Deborah to give her more support.

Here are the final results for all teams in the Rec E Championship race. It was good to race against our friends O2P, Metro Van 44 Cheeks, and the Eh Team.  Congratulations to the medal winning team and especially O2P – nice to see them beat us this year, after we bet them twice in race consolation finals last year in Vancouver and Steveston.

  • 8th– 2:33.510  – Gung Haggis Fat Choy
  • 7th – 2:30.610 – KDBC LIFT WHAT’S DRAGGIN
  • 6th – 2:30.040 – Metro Vancouver 44 Cheeks
  • 5th – 2:29.070 – Kwantlen Sea-Eagles
  • 4th – 2:25.170 – O2P
  • 3rd – 2:23.640 –Red Eyes Paddling Club
  • 2nd – 2:20.940 – The EH Team
  • 1st – 2:19.170 – Concord Pacific Team Too

After we did a quick team debrief, we watched TSA Dragon Flyers won Gold in Rec D with a time of  2:15.990.  They had a good start, and pulled out ahead after their transition to race pace, from their start.  It was fun to watch them come down the course, while boat 2 was very close, and other boats weren’t too far away.  TSA had a strong finish and kept a steady surge to the finish line.

Here is a nice picture of both Gung Haggis Fat Choy and TSA Flying Dragons posing together for a joint team picture. There was a good feeling of camaraderie and mutual support, as teams cheered for each other during races, and also joined together for a joint dinner on Saturday night.  Gotta admit this team looks pretty good with rows of blue and red, bookended by kilts!

Gung Haggis dragon boat team races at 10:34am Saturday in Race #15

Cheer on the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team for Race #15 Saturday at 10:34am, then later in race 38, 40, 42 or 44 between 2:47-3:31pm. Then again on Sunday TBA.

We have an enthusiastic team filled with veterans and rookies, and supplemented with paddlers from the Go Ju Go team.  Our combined practice on Wednesday night was awesome – we are ready to race!  We are also pleased to be hosting the TSA Dragon Flyers team from Long Beach California.

Here is the link to the festival events and races

Here are pictures from Friday Night opening ceremonies and performances at the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.

Dragon Boat Festival is happening!

We had the Gung Haggis Chinese parade dragon out & about at the Dragon Boat Festival @ Creekside/Olympic village. We salsa danced, posed with little children and VIP’s, and saluted the Abreast in a Boat ceremony!

Jenny leads a little dragon dance, while a performer sings a special song about dragon boat paddling.


Todd, Jennifer, Enzo Guerriero (Festival Board), Andrea Reimer (city councilor), Carson, Barry (TSA team), Caroline.


Raymond Louie (City Councilor) and Todd.  Raymond used to paddle with a Vancouver Sun team
back around 1997.
We met stilt walkers!
We ham it up with the pizza guys…

Irish & Scottish Studies International Conference coming to Vancouver

The Irish & Scottish Studies International Conference is being hosted by SFU. June 20 to 23, at SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings.  It’s formal title is On The Edge: Transitions, Transgressions and Transformations in Irish and Scottish Studies.

My friend Dr. Leith Davies, director of the Centre of Scottish Studies is one of the organizers.

The first event Wed – June 19th – features my friend violinist Cam Wilson (Van Django, Yaletown String Quartet, various symphonies etc) plays during the 7-8pm reception preceding  opening night talk by Dr. McIlvanney on “Scottish Poetry in the South Seas”. This takes place in Segal Room 1400

On Thursday 3:30-5pm – There is a Community Panel that features local community members involved in Scottish and Irish cultures in BC

I, Todd Wong will speak about my Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and my Robbie Burns Chinese New Year related events.  Four other speakers are Rosemary Coupe (Scottish Dancing in BC), Maura de Freitas (History and aims of The Celtic Connection), Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruesaat (Irish song in Australia vs Irish song in Canada), Brendan Flynn) Irish Monument in Thornton Park, Vancouver).

Then on Saturday 7-10pm.  Gung Haggis Fat Choy style dinner at Floata Restaurant. $55 is regular price.

Yes… I will perform my “Rap to the Haggis”

Entertainment includes M’Girl – Aboriginal Women’s Ensemble

Followed by ceilidh – so we can bring our instruments….


Italian for a day… in Vancouver

Italian Day, Commercial Drive, June 9

Italian for a day… Italian is actually the third language I learned, while I learned to play accordion. It is the language of music.. Rossini, Puccini… and O Solo Mio. I grew up near Commercial Drive and had lots of Italian-Canadian friends, and later I even had Italian girlfriends. I played accordion for their families. I cook fettucini and linguine noodles with beef stir-fry and Chinese oyster or soy sauce. And maybe… I will organize a dragon boat team for the Italian Cultural Centre.
These two ladies were dancers in the flash mob that took place in front of the main stage, after the speeches finished.  About 20 dancers with carnivale masks did a synchronized routine – spectacular!  One of their mothers took this picture for me.






My friend Giulio Recchioni is the Cultural director for Il Centro: Italian Cultural Centre. OMG… I am still wearing my kilt. I had just come from the Dragon Zone Regatta, racing with the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team. I think Giuilo would be a good paddler. Maybe we can create a dragon boat team for Il Centro: Italian Cultural Centre.


Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson reads from the city proclamation to announce “Italian Day in Vancouver”

After the speeches I chatted with Vancouver councilor Tony Tang (who wants to wear a kilt), Burnaby MLA Richard Lee, and Michael Cuccione – president of the ICC.
Sardines on the big grill, at the PCOV – Portuguese Club of Vancouver – always a big line up here.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team – back to race speed!


Looking Good! 2013 edition of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team continues a 16 year history that began in 1997 as Celebration Team. This team is a mix of veterans and rookies, as well as returning paddlers and borrowed paddlers. The Dragon Zone Regatta was the first race ever for Sunny and Russ, and was actually Russ’ 3rd time in a dragon boat.  Louise first paddled with the team in ’99, before the name changed to Gung Haggis Fat Choy in ’02. Michelle also paddled on a previous team years ago, and has rejoined dragon boating with us.  Keng and Gerard joined the team in 2005. Deb Martin joined the team in 2003 and has paddled, drummed – but now steers for the team.  Joy is back with us, after dragon boat paddling in Dubai.  Jan, Betty, Albert and Katie are with the Go Ju Goh team. Stewart is a paddling friend from O2P and is now on the VO2 Max team (I don’t know why he likes this letter and number teams, honestly!).

Sybil and Karl were lead strokes for our final race of the day.  Karl is also team manager this year, Last year he co-managed with Xavier, who is now drummer, and taking this photo.

Our first race of the year saw us boarding the boat, as the previous weather forecast proved wrong, and the sky started spitting rain, which turned into a downpour, once we were out on the race course.  Good thing we have trained our team to have a strong mental resolve.  We practice in the rain, because it might be raining on race day, and while other teams whine about the rain, we will be ready because we trained in the rain. Anyways, we came 5th in our first race with a time of 2:48. Not bad for a first race.  Our team goal is be “first in our lane and never be slower than 3:00” – okay… not really.


Our paddles go deep!  Nicely coached… by the third race, as we were warming up for the final race of the day.  We want our paddlers to lean up, keep their top arm out, and lead the stroke with their hips!photo

We had to race past a flock of Canada Geese that were swimming in the middle of the race course! The Dogwood Nothing pulled in front of us in this race – but we will get them back in two weeks… I promise!photo

Xavier looks comfortable as drummer on the boat, and he really “Rocks the Kilt!”  Did you know that he is the only kilt-maker on the team?  He also plays guitar and churango in the Black Bear Rebels Celtic Ceilidh group.

The Gung HAGGIS Fat Choy parade dragon has been very active in 2013 – will we be at the Dragon Boat Festival?

Gung HAGGIS Fat Choy dragon boat team is very multicultural, and very community-minded.  The team began in 1997 under the name Celebration Team, and was renamed Gung HAGGIS Fat Choy in 2002, named after the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner event, that had its first public dinner in 1998.

This year’s team has members with origins from around the world, as well as multiple generations in Canada.  But our parade dragon has been especially busy in 2013.  In June, we might make an appearance at the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, as well as the On the Edge International Conference for Scottish and Irish Studies.

Here is a recap of our dragon parade activities so far….
In MAY Asian Heritage Month, we were commissioned to do our dragon walk at the Vancouver Opera pre-show lobby, during their May 4-11, production of Tea: Mirror of Soul.2013_May_Opera 014at Vancouver Opera pre-show with Alma Lee (founder of Vancouver International Writers Festival)


MARCH 17, for the past 8 years we have been in the Celtic Fest St. Patrick’s Day Parade
with either a dragon boat float, or our parade dragon.  This year, we ended up on the cover of 24 Hours Newspaper.

556952_10151400971289302_2138235483_nOur picture

February 17
The Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade

January 27th
and our world famous Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner – as interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland, and filmed for local newscasts, and US Public Radio + many other media over the years.
DSC_0044_857158 - Piping in the VIPs