Dragon Fever has spread amongst the population of Florence as the place prepares for the Dragon Boat Festival 2018. It’s the first International festival for breast cancer survivors to be held in Europe and the Florentine organizers from ‘Firenze in Rosa’ (Florence in Pink) have been working non-stop to coordinate preparations for the event.
Bilingual volunteers were called upon from the expat communities in January, which dragged loads of us out of the woodwork to be ‘Ambassadors‘ to a Team to ensure they have all the information and assistance they need to make their stay in Florence and their participation in the event a successful one. Meetings and emails have continued to circulate ever since as we begin to know our Team members and travelling supporters and answer their various queries. There was a bit of a kerfuffle when we saw the uniform included shorts…..as many mature age volunteers are not ‘shorts’ people!?
Another massive call to the general community for other volunteers to help at arrival/departure, registration time, people traffic control, assembling tents, manning Red Cross boats, medical services on land, embarkation and debarkation….the list is endless. And delighted to see a large group of African refugees volunteering and much appreciated since they are strong young men, speaking French, so can handle more of the physical jobs and translate for the French speakers.
Over 4000 participants from around the world – a major participation from Australia of 900, America, Canada, some South American countries –Argentina and Brazil, many European countries with single teams and 1 Team from Singapore.
I had never heard of it, nor even knew what a Dragon Boat looked like and it has been a fun time understanding what the Festival is all about. An amazing bunch of courageous women who have survived breast cancer and showing their strength and vitality in paddling Dragon Boats – that has to be an inspiration to us all!
There are 22 team members per boat – 20 paddlers, a drummer to keep the paddle rhythm and the ‘sweep’ or steerer standing at the rear of the boat.
Last Saturday Florence held it’s own Dragon boat festival which was something of a test run to the major event to be held in the first week of July. It was on the Arno river next to the Cascine Park which is the largest green area of the city and a favourite place for joggers, cyclists and dog walkers.
Dragon boats were off loaded and the various teams began warm up exercises before launching, somewhat precariously, these sleek long boats onto the Arno.
These teams were mixed sexes and not necessarily breast cancer survivors however the judges of the event were the pink ladies from LILT – Italian League for the Fight against Cancer, and it was a fun day. Lots of hilarity, the rhythmic ‘tum, tum, tum…’, a few lost paddles and a couple of wet paddlers!
I am excited about the coming Dragon Boat Festival and looking forward to meeting my ‘Dragons’ from Dragons Abreast Team Inspiration…..and of course will be doing a follow up blog after the event.