Ottawa ice dragon boat festival offers jam-packed virtual event

Everything from athletic challenges to music, arts and more

Although the Beavertails Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival has only been around for four years, in that short time it has become one of the most popular parts of the annual Winterlude festival and a key event on the ice dragon boating global calendar. This year, although the actual race is cancelled due to COVID-19, the entire festival, including music performances, arts, events and a unique athletic challenge, is going virtual. 

“Right now, we would be on the ice on the Rideau Canal Skateway with ice dragon boats,” says Antony Cooper, the festival's director of operations. “That isn't the case this year, so we are presenting the Beavertails Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival Virtual Edition from February 5th – the 21st with all of our programming online at”

The centrepiece is the new Shiver ‘n Giver virtual challenge where participants can skate, ski, snowshoe, walk or run to complete 21K over the course of Winterlude 2021.

“We are challenging everybody to do 21 kilometres, cumulatively over the duration of Winterlude,” Cooper says. “From now, up until the 21st you can ski, skate, snowshoe, walk, or run, whatever your preference is, and you can do it from anywhere in the world.”

The festival has already gone global at this point. It has hosted 100,000 spectators, 400 teams with 5,000 athletes representing countries including England, India, Iran, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, the United States and Canada.

“The challenge and festival itself are really accessible and invite people from anywhere to participate and that's really true to the heart of the festival,” Cooper explains. “Typically 60 per cent of the people who come and participate are from outside of the Nation’s Capital. We've had people from all over the world participate and so many great experiences from the inaugural edition, which was the first-ever ice dragon boat race in North America, to last year’s 2nd IIDBF World Ice Dragon Boat Championships.”

In addition, the festival is also presenting an eclectic array of performances from great Canadian acts: Moonfruits, the Chinese Canadian Children’s Choir of Canada, Melo Griffith, Silent Winters, Taming Sari, Amanda Rheaume, and DJ Shub as well as other activities and visual arts presentations. 

In addition to the virtual challenge and checking out the online events, participants are invited to contribute to the vital fundraising efforts, which is where the virtual challenge got its name.

“We're hosting the 5th annual ODBF Shiver ‘n Giver fundraising drive as a way for people to support local charities and the essential services they provide to everyone that has been hit so hard due to the ongoing pandemic,” says Cooper. 

Whether it’s the challenge, the fundraising drive, or the programming that piques your interest it’s all these elements that highlight this year’s virtual festival.

“I think we’re really happy to be connecting with people and offering the physical challenge, the fundraising and all of the artistic programming and we hope this brings people a little bit of mental relief and some joy.”

For full event information check out the festival website



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