Steamboat’s Yampa River Festival kicks off with wet and wild events |
Luke Graham

Steamboat’s Yampa River Festival kicks off with wet and wild events

— An old friend showed up just as Todd Greenwood was unloading his raft from the top of his truck Saturday.

Yes, it was the sun. You know, that bright object in the sky?

Greenwood, like everyone who attended Saturday's opening of the 31st annual Yampa River Festival, was out for fun on the river. Some spotty sunshine didn't hurt, nor did the abundant water filling the river to its banks.

"The Yampa is probably the best flowing river right now," said Greenwood, who made the trek from Breckenridge to see some friends. "Everything else is frozen up. I just want to float down and have fun. It looks like a pretty low-key event. People are just out having a good time and floating down the Yampa."

The Yampa River Festival featured a bit of everything Saturday. The day began off the water with 5- and 1-kilometer running races. There was a stand-up paddleboard race at Fetcher Pond, the cult-like raft race, the crowd-pleasing Crazy River Dog contest, an inner tube rodeo, and finally the kayak rodeo, where vintage crafts were the main show.

The raft race, which began at Fetcher Pond and ended at the D-Hole in front of the Depot Art Center, featured competitor of all stripes. There were serious rafters, first-timers and people dressed in only their underwear.

"I'm just here for the festivities on the river," said first-timer Nick Sunseri, who didn't have a costume. "This is my first. I've never been to a river fest like this. It's a great time. It's just a bunch of people hanging out on the river."

The stand-up paddleboard race was a new event. Todd Givnish, who organized it, said he wasn't expecting much. But by 12:45 p.m., people already were lining up to give the burgeoning sport of paddleboarding a try.

"We've been renting boards from the Ski Haus for a couple years now and wanted to be part of the River Fest," Givnish said. "Interest has definitely sparked. I'm surprised with how many people are here."

As one of the only events on the calm waters of Fetcher Pond, the paddleboard event brought out newbies and experienced paddlers for a timed race. Racers had to paddle the length of the pond and navigate around designated markers.

"I do it every day at lunch," said Lorin Paley, who uses the sport as cross-training for skiing. "I go over to the Boulder Reservoir, pump mine up and get to it."

The competition was friendly, and with the sun out, it certainly served as a good way to kick off the Yampa River Festival.

"It's all about getting people out on the water and finding a new way to enjoy it," Givnish said.

The Yampa River Festival continues at 10 a.m. Sunday with a kayak canoe slalom at Dr. Rich Weiss Park. Entry fee is $10. A Respect the Yampa float begins after the slalom. The festival wraps up with a 5 p.m. barbecue at the D-Hole.

The Paddling Life Pro Invitational starts at 11 a.m. Monday with an extreme kayak race on Class IV-V Fish Creek followed by kayak rodeos at the D-Hole from noon to 5 p.m.

Yampa River Festival schedule

■ Sunday

10 a.m. A kayak and canoe slalom is at Dr. Rich Weiss Park. The entry fee is $10. A Respect the Yampa float from Dr. Rich Weiss Park begins after the slalom.

5 p.m. The festival concludes with a barbecue at the D-Hole.

■ Monday

11 a.m. The Paddling Life Pro Invitational starts with an extreme race on Class IV-V Fish Creek, followed by kayak rodeos at the D-Hole from noon to 5 p.m. Competitors' scores in each event are tallied to determine the overall winner. The festivities are followed by a 6:30 p.m. party at Sweetwater Grill, featuring local bands, beer and other surprises. Visit or call 970-870-0880 for more information.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email