A winter favourite returned to the capital Saturday- for the third annual Ice Dragon Boat Festival.

The tournament continues to grow every year- 2019 is the biggest year so far- with 125 teams and more than 1,500 participants.

The festival is a huge boost for Ottawa tourism; about half of participants come from out of town. “A phenomenal statistic when we take a look at tourism in the city and we plan on getting bigger and bigger,” says Craig Stewart with the Dragon Boat Foundation.

Stephanie Dostie came from Montreal with her team the Ice Capades. “The team spirit, the commitment, it’s so inclusive because anyone can learn to paddle! It’s just wonderful to see people from all over the country and the states and the world!”

The Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival was the first ever ice dragon boat race in North America- the competition taking place near Dow’s Lake. The entire 7.8km stretch of the Rideau Canal Skateway reopened Saturday morning after a tough week of weather.

“The glide was amazing ... the ice this year was great. Very good!” says Melanie Savoie.

The Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most popular events of Winterlude. Winterlude continues Sunday and next weekend.