Stratford's Dragon boat teams walked away with some respectable hardware this weekend from the Rotary Club of Stratford's 11th annual Dragon Boat Festival but it was the breast-cancer survivor teams who walked away with the most satisfaction.
Without a doubt the sombre, classy ceremony that featured actors from the Stratford Festival as well over 200 breast-cancer survivors tossing carnations into the water in memory of those who lost their lives to the disease, was the highlight of the festival.
So, much so, that come Monday event co-ordinator Bill Helmuth was still receiving praise from the groups involved.
"There was a tremendous response from the groups that came to our festival. We're the largest breast-cancer survivor dragon boat festival for the area and we felt we had to do something special to acknowledge it.," Helmuth said.
"They were calling and asking to get in touch with some of the actors some of the survivors were so moved."
Ken Gene, co-founder of the event, also heaped high praise on the festival.
"Being in its 11th year, we really can't get much better than this. It's a strong event and will continue to be one for some time now. It's good to see after so many years, that it is still going strong," Gene said.
Also going strong this weekend were several Stratford teams.
With its lowest number of local talent in years at 17, attributed in part to the growing competition of the event, Stratford finished with several top-place finishings.
In the Women's division the Stratford Metal Products team took second in the final with a time of 2:29:59, just behind the Toronto Masters Team who finished first with a time of 2:29:47.
"I took a look at the final when they crossed the line and to give you an idea of how close it actually was, I thought it looked like the third-place team had finished first," Gene said
The Komodo Diva's finished third with a time of 2:29:62.
"Toronto and Komodo are both good clubs. Toronto was at the World Club Championships last month and they did quite well there so it wasn't unexpected that they would excel here."
In the A division consolation final Stratford's Golden Plate Warriors came in second with a time of 2:21:40. Just over a second behind the Shockwave 1.
"Golden Plate was the fastest Stratford club at the festival. The time they put up was a good one. They are capable of being in the final though, not just the consolation."
That left five Stratford teams battling it out in the C division for local bragging rights.
The Optimist Juniors and the Silver Masters squad faced off in the C division final while the KSR Pedal Pushers, the Assorted Stratford Strokers and FAG Bearings competed in the C division consolation final.
The FAG would come out on top in a race that first and fourth were separated by just over a second.
FAG finished in first with a time of 2:27:27. The Assorted Strokers took third with a 2:28:19 time. And KSR rounded out the group in fourth with a 2:28:40 time.
In the C final, coach Ken Gene was satisfied with the result but had been hoping to compete in a higher division.
"The Juniors didn't finish with overly strong times in the qualifying. They paddled well but we had posted times better previous to this," Gene said.
But despite that the Juniors took it to the Masters and the rest of the field and retained town bragging rights with a time of 2:22:27.
Nearly two seconds ahead of anything they had done in the qualifying and a time that would have placed them in the thick of things in the A division consolation.
"It was good for them to come away with a win. The Juniors have competed against the Masters in the years as they came up. Up until about two seasons ago it was a close race between us but as the Juniors have gotten better they have really pulled away."
The Masters finished in third with a time of 2:28:26.
By far the fastest time of day was set by a team by the name of Lane One.
Struggling or perhaps conserving themselves in the opening rounds, Lane One posted times hovering around the 2:23 mark.
The time wasn't good enough to make the A final. But in the B final they won with a time of 2:12:99, a full five seconds ahead of any time posted in the A final.