Dragon boating has a rich and colourful history, steeped in the belief that dragon boats drive away evil spirits. At a distant time when these evil spirits ruled, causing much disease, suffering and misfortune among the population of China, many methods were developed to keep them at bay.
One approach was especially exciting and colourful - adorning boats so they resembled fearsome dragons. With its head of an ox, antlers of a deer, claws of an eagle and body of a snake, dragons dominated the skies above the countryside, keeping evil spirits very far away. A tradition soon took hold.
Modern dragon boats are 12 m long, with 20 paddlers, seated in pairs. A commanding drummer is situated at the bow with a steersperson at the stern. An alternative style consists of 10 paddlers in shorter boats.
The sport eventually found its way to Canada. The Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, now North America’s largest festival, began in 1994. Four years later, a charitable component was added to raise funds for local charities. The Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation has raised over $3.7 million for 40 local charities.
The seeds that were to eventually grow into a recreational, mixed dragon boat team, Chinatown Showboat, were planted around the same time by paddlers determined to use dragon boating in a novel way to raise community awareness and funds. Dressed in themed costumes, paddlers from this new and very unusual team graced the waters of Mooney’s Bay in June 2002, to the delight of many curious onlookers. An increasingly popular tradition quickly took hold.
Individual Showboat paddlers have a strong community spirit. They know the value of community and are very eager to give back. Beyond that, paddling skills run the full spectrum from experienced paddlers with competitive teams to individuals with little or no experience. Starting in May, paddlers gather once a week to advance their paddling skills, ultimately working together as a team. Practices prepare the team to compete in 3 local festivals during the summer, wrapping up in early September.
Regardless of a variety of careers and diverse paddling skills, the team is united by passion for community work. Most of the team's year-round fundraising efforts support the work of the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation. These activities span from curling competitions, bake sales, karaoke nights, stand-up comedy shows, pub nights with live music to more formal fundraising dinners. Chinatown's Showboat has even teamed up with a local brewery, Covered Bridge Brewing, to produce a beer with charitable qualities.
Fundraising doesn't stop there. To thank Ottawa's Chinatown community in a meaningful way for their unwavering support, the team networks with Yet Keen, a Chinese seniors’ program at the Somerset West Community Health Centre. Awareness and resources are raised for both Yet Keen and The Door Youth Centre, nestled in the heart of Chinatown, through volunteering and fundraising.
Since the team's early beginnings in 2002, over $200,000 has been raised for the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation through fundraising activities.
The team is always looking to engage with other teams, sponsors, the media, and supporters in the community to raise both awareness and resources. To support the team's vision for outreach, Chinatown’s Showboat is active on the various social media. Check out our social properties on our feeds page.