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Organizers pull plug on Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival races, but shows will go on

Participants in the Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival will receive refunds following another cancelled event this year. (Source: Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival - image credit)
Participants in the Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival will receive refunds following another cancelled event this year. (Source: Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival - image credit)

Poor ice conditions on the Rideau Canal have forced organizers of the Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival to cancel upcoming races.

It's the second straight year that mild weather has forced the cancellation of the race events. The previous two years saw the festival cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coming out of COVID and then having back-to-back cancellations, it's a bit of an uphill climb for sure. - Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation CEO John Brooman

The recent woes have put the future of the wintertime festival in doubt, according to Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation CEO John Brooman.

"I know there's a lot of people that are very passionate about this and that really, really like it," Brooman said.

"Coming out of COVID and then having back-to-back cancellations, it's a bit of an uphill climb for sure."

Brooman said despite yet another setback, it's too soon to make any decisions about the long-term viability of the festival.

Competitors from around the world

Compounding the bad news is the fact that the festival was set to host the second International Ice Dragon Boat Federation World Club Crew Ice Dragon Boat Championships, with more than 1,600 competitors from all over the world.

"So nobody really wins on this," Brooman said. "We have teams apparently flying out tomorrow from Europe, Pakistan, across the United States,and they've all been waiting for the call on this — everybody of course watching the weather. So it's a difficult one."

Organizers explored alternative locations to hold the races, scheduled for Feb. 9 and 10, but the poor conditions coupled with a shortage of similar venues of suitable size made moving the event impossible.

So far this season, a 1.9-kilometre stretch of the Rideau Canal Skateway opened for a total of four days, starting Jan. 21.

This weekend's forecast continues to call for unseasonably mild high temperatures of about 5 C.

Despite the cancelled races, the popular concert series associated with the festival will go on, with slated performances from Joel Plaskett, Born Ruffians, Dizzy, Elliot Brood, and Chris Murphy of Sloan, among others.