Hundreds of paddlers took to the waters at Bell Park on Saturday, backs by sunny skies, hot weather and a breeze at their backs.
In short, it was a perfect day for a festival, as 49 teams took to the water at Bell Park for the 16th edition of the Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival. In the process, they raised $70,000 for the Northern Cancer Foundation's Sam Bruno PET Scan Fund. The group will also be recipients of funds raised next year.
Jim Smith, chair of the festival's planning committee, said the money adds to the $1.5 million paddlers have raised since the event was founded at the turn of the century.
“We're very happy with that, and I can tell you the charities are delighted," Smith said. "We made that money through the work of the paddlers collecting pledges from their friends and their families, etc. So the credit really goes to them.
“Every cent they gave us, we donated to the charities. Not one cent is consumed in operations."
Sponsors pay operating costs, and the rest of the herculean task of putting on the event goes to the volunteers, which Smith said number about 140 this year. For many of them, helping out has become a long-term commitment
"We've had a lot of volunteers here since Day 1,” he said. “And many of them have 10-year warranty on their work."
When they founded the festival, Smith said the main idea was to organize an event big enough to get people outside and active.
"We thought that would be a great goal," he said. "But after awhile we thought it would be great if we could collect pledges, so we'd be able to help people in the community.
"The community has been very supportive of that, and we've been able to pick charities with which the community can identify."
The festival is also a reminder of how lucky we are to have Bell Park, a natural area on a beautiful lake right in the heart of the city.
"The city is absolutely perfect for this,” he said, as a live band entertained the paddlers near the main beach, and temperatures approach 30 degrees. “We're here in Bell Park, we have shade, we have lots of areas for sun. The water is perfect and the wind is in a direction that helps the paddlers.
"To go back-to-back with Northern Lights Festival Boreal, it's a nice two weeks in July."
And while raising money for good causes is important, Smith said the original intent of the festival holds true: bringing people together for a day of fun and physical activities.
"The real idea has always been to have fun in the park, on a beautiful Saturday in July," he said. "This is our 16th year and we've been fortunate just about every year to have good weather.
"This is one of our big ones in the park, No doubt about it."
Detailed results from Saturday's races can be found at sudburydragonboats.com.