Buena Vista PaddleFest May 22-25 is one of the few whitewater festivals in the world and is open to people of all interests who can watch or participate in demonstrations, educational classes, a pro rodeo competition and a number of social events. PaddleFest is anticipated to draw about 1,000 people over the Memorial Day weekend.
PaddleFest kicks off the whitewater boating season. "The Arkansas River from Granite to CaГ±on City is the kayaking capital of the world with 100 miles of the best whitewater on the Arkansas River," said Earl Richmond, PaddleFest sponsor and owner of Colorado Kayak Supply.
But if the interest is not whitewater boating, something new this year is the very popular SUP - Stand up Paddling, a flat-water clinic. This new sport, a combination of surfing and canoeing, will be demonstrated at Town Lake in McPhelemy Park on Saturday and Sunday.
At the PaddleFest Pro Rodeo competitions, world champion professional paddlers run the waves in the playholes in the Arkansas River near Buena Vista River Park. Kayakers are judged based on the ability to perform high-end, free-style maneuvers in the whitewater playholes in Buena Vista Whitewater Park. Preliminary competitions are Friday afternoon and finals are on Sunday afternoon. Some of the top paddlers coming for the pro rodeo are Erick and Emily Jackson, Stephen Wright and Brian Kirk. Local kayakers Dustin and Katie Urban are running the pro rodeo and Katie Urban's brother, Jed Selby, is competing. A series of free clinics, seminars and demonstrations both on and off the water are offered. The free clinics may be something to introduce beginners to the sport and how to prepare for kayaking. Dryland river rescue courses are offered for safety around or on the water. Professionals teach all the classes, Richmond said. The women's specific courses are taught by women for women. People wanting to participate may sign up in advance for the classes or the day of the festival.
Other non-paddling events are the evening social events to be held at South Main Square. Friday night's music program is bluegrass and Saturday night is rock 'n' roll. At the same time, Colorado micro-brews will be available for beer gardens and local vendors will provide barbecue foods, desserts and appetizers. When it gets dark, the "hottest new paddling movies" will premiere at the beer gardens, Richmond said. The movies will be free and shown on a jumbo screen. "All proceeds from PaddleFest from activities such as vendor fees, beer sales, food sales and the silent auction go to benefit the Buena Vista Whitewater Park. The proceeds will help raise the $7,000 matching funds needed for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant that is to be used for the whitewater park, trails and boulders," Richmond said. Vendors have information on whitewater boating and there are kayak fishing boats and inflatable kayaks. The annual kayak swap will be at CKS. Information or lists of clinics offered over the weekend are available on the PaddleFest Web site, ckspaddlefest.com. For seminars that are free, people are asked to meet at the CKS information tent next to CKS.