Colour and excitement are heading to Welland this summer as it plays host to two major international dragon boat racing events.
Suggested tweet: World’s best dragon boat racers come to Welland in August, bringing colour + excitement http://ow.ly/LyBAD #explorecanada @OntarioTravel
For fans of paddling sports, there’s no better place to be this August than Welland, ON. Up to 4,000 athletes from more than 20 countries will descend on the small city in the Niagara region to compete in not just one, but two international dragon boat racing events.
With a canal on its doorstep and a racing facility, Welland is perfectly suited for flat-water sports. The historic waterway was once used to move large ships from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario as part of the St. Lawrence Seaway system. When a new canal opened in 1973 and the ship traffic was diverted there, the old one became a recreational waterway: perfect for rowing, paddling and swimming.
The 12 km-long (7 mi) canal is bordered by 24 km (15 mi) of trails for walkers, runners and cyclists. Its gently sloped banks provide a natural amphitheatre for watching races on the water.
The action begins at the Welland International Flatwater Centre. Opened in 2007, the facility has already hosted several international championships, including the 2010 Commonwealth Rowing Championships.
But none will be as colourful and exciting as this year’s international dragon boat events. Dragon boat racing is a sport that calls for strength, skill and endurance, but also teamwork and team spirit. Each dragon boat holds 20 paddlers plus a drummer and steerer. Deeply rooted in Chinese culture, the bow of each boat is adorned with a carved dragon’s head while the stern carries the tail. The paddles are meant to represent the dragon’s claws. Imagine the spectacle as each boat surges forward to the powerful beat of the drum, paddlers’ blades plunging into the water in perfect unison.
Lots of activities are planned on land to keep the momentum going between and during races. Stroll the banks of the waterway for a bite to eat, have a glass (or two) of beer or wine, hear live music, be entertained by buskers and enjoy cultural displays.
Don’t miss Canal Terrace in downtown Welland, with its water features, gardens and interpretive panels that explain the history of the area. The construction of four canals from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario—the first in 1824—was a significant feat in the development of Canada as a nation. Welland is also known for its rose gardens and parks.
No trip here would be complete without leaving the city to enjoy the orchards, vineyards and vegetable gardens in the surrounding countryside of the Niagara region. Drive the scenic Niagara Parkway from Fort Erie to Niagara-on-the-Lake and enjoy what Sir Winston Churchill called “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world.”
For a more rugged adventure, take a hike on the Niagara Escarpment, a 725 km-long (450 mi) ridge that runs through this part of southern Ontario. To complete your trip, there’s the region’s most famous feature—Niagara Falls — just half an hour’s drive away.
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