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Enter the dragon boats

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Man and the elements will collide this weekend as Filipino Students Association members race across the Glenmore Reservoir at the Alberta Dragon Boat Racing Festival.

This is the fifth year the FSA has participated in the race. They view this event as an opportunity to strengthen ties among members and renew cultural awareness.

"It is a great team-building experience and it allows us to relate to our Asian heritage," said FSA Historian Adrian Sia Lu.

Of the FSA’s various social events in the year, this is one of the largest.

"The dragon boat festival is the second largest event that the FSA participates in," said FSA Vice-president Finance Meneleo Oba. Though first priority is an emphasis on enjoying the event, the FSA hopes to gain publicity and exposure through racing.

"It is a chance for us to get sponsorship throughout the year as it is a visible event and well-known in Calgary," said Oba. "We also try to get sponsors to subsidize some of the costs of the event."

The FSA has a foundation in the promotion and awareness of the Filipino heritage.

"The dragon boat racing is one of our strongest events and presents the opportunity for old and new members to see what the FSA is all about," said two-time crew member Sunil Wadhera. "This event generates a lot of spirit which we need to continue as an organization."

Members will compete in an elongated racer with a dragon’s head at the bow and a tail at the stern. Each boat holds 20 people: 18 paddlers; one drummer; and one pilot. The FSA team, made up of 10 women and eight men, will compete at the novice level. Due to the nature of dragon boat racing, teamwork becomes an essential component of success.

Traditionally, Chinese boat racing was created to commemorate Qu Yuan, China’s first known poet, for his self-sacrifice, steadfast morality, the power of his writing, and his concern for fallen countrymen.

However, organizers recognize the widespread appeal the festival possesses as both an athletic and cultural draw.

"It’s billed as more of a sporting event than a multicultural event, but there is that traditional aspect as well," said race administrator James Quon. "We integrate entertainment into the event so there is a wide variety of cultural performances."

Last year the FSA finished with a time of about four minutes; they hope to match or beat that time this weekend. The Dragon Boat Race Festival kicks off this weekend at North Glenmore Park. The races begin at 9:00 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday and will end around 5:00 p.m., weather permitting.

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