VICTORIA -- One of the largest annual events in Vancouver Island’s Harbour City will not take place this year due to COVID-19.

The Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival will be put on hold this coming summer based on directions of provincial health authorities, like a ban on gatherings larger than 50 people.

“It was the right thing to do for the dragon boat community,” said festival chair, Heiko Behn. “It [would have been] very difficult for people to keep their social distancing.”

Behn made the announcement Saturday in a letter posted to the festival’s Facebook page.

“We take this step with heavy hearts, but with clear minds,” reads the letter. “We know the cancellation will have a severe effect on our fundraising efforts for cancer.”

The festival attracts 5,000 to 8,000 people every year, with 65 to 70 teams coming to Nanaimo from B.C., Alberta, Oregon and California.

The festival raises money for local charities such as the Nanaimo Hospital Foundation and the Nanaimo Hospice Society and has raised approximately $750,000 over the past 18 years.

Participants can receive full refunds for this year’s event upon request, or registration fees will be held for the 2021 festival without price increases or penalties.

The Fairway Gorge Paddling Club out of Victoria overseas all dragon boat festivals on Vancouver Island which includes:

  • Fairway Gorge Super Sprints Dragon Boat Races 200M (May 24, 2020)
  • Fairway Gorge Festival 500M (June 13, 2020)
  • Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival (July 10-12, 2020 / CANCELLED)
  • Victoria Dragon Boat Festival (August 7-9, 2020)

The club will be making a formal announcement in the coming weeks on how they will be moving forward with each dragon boat festival separately.