Going Out

Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival: Race to the music

Come for the races, stay for the music.

Ottawa’s Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival (June 23-26) is for people who like beats and boats. The dragon boat races on Mooney’s Bay are the festival’s pied piper, but the real winners are found in the free cultural programming and family entertainment.

Music headliners include July Talk (above) and A Tribe Called Red, along with talented local acts like Loon Choir. Meanwhile, the kids can enjoy all-day inflatable games and a bicycle stunt show – not to mention reptiles, fairytale princesses, magicians and puppets.

We got an insider’s scoop from Antony Cooper, artistic director for the festival:

Q: What are you looking forward to the most about this year’s festival?

A: There are so many components to enjoy — from the races to delicious foods, a bicycle stunt show and the RCAF Pipes and Drums. There are also so many incredibly cool, unusual and inspiring artists as part of our lineup of free concerts.  This year I’m really looking forward to various acts, including Modern Space on opening night and JUNO-nominee Ria Mae on Day 2. On Day 3 we have Pony Girl, who had their most recent album rated 9/10 by Exclaim!, followed by Nap Eyes, who have been getting great reviews from publications like Pitchfork, SPIN and Fader. On the final day we have Ottawa’s own Loon Choir, a nine-piece band who were featured on CBC’s 2015 “Hidden Gems” list.

Alvvays headlines the Saturday night of the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival
Alvvays headlines the Saturday night of the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival

Q: What makes the festival special? 

A: What makes the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival special is not only the presentation of traditional dragon boat races in competitive, corporate and community categories, but also all of the other free programming including the family entertainment, heritage performances and free concerts.

Q: What will surprise visitors about the festival?

A: Each year we hear from visitors how surprised they are that this quality and quantity of programming is free including the high profile artists in our main stage free concerts. This year our headliners include huge Canadian acts such as July Talk, Mother Mother, Alvvays and A Tribe Called Red.

Competitors heave and ho at the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival
Competitors heavy and ho at the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival