Yampa River Festival returns to Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa River Festival returns to Steamboat Springs

A kayaker heads down the rushing Yampa River on Wednesday. The river will be full of action in Steamboat Springs this weekend as the Yampa River Festival sets down in town for the 33rd time.

— Pete Van De Carr said the annual Yampa River Festival is like the river itself: a fluid sort of thing, undulating from season to season.

This year's edition, with a change in dates and new events, is a fine example. But Van De Carr, one of the event's organizers, said change isn't the only thread that runs through the festival's 33 years. The simplicity of fun on the river has always defined the festival and he said that's the plan this year, too.

"The bottom line is, if we're not having fun doing this, we're doing something wrong," Van De Carr said.

The festival began Wednesday night with a movie premiere at the library and kicks back up Friday before action-packed days Saturday and Sunday. It all comes a week later than the festival has taken place in recent seasons. Organizers shifted the dates this year to fall between similar river-related festivities around the state.

Events have proven as impermanent as the event's date, and this year's festivities will feature several new competitions. In addition to recent staples like the Crazy River Dog competition, a freestyle competition and a raft race, this year's events will include four different stand-up paddleboard-related competitions.

Paddleboard demos and a race will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at Fetcher Pond, while another race is set to run from Soda Creek to the D Hole at 3 p.m. Saturday.

A Friday registration party is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Sunpies. Saturday holds the bulk of the weekend's activities. The day opens with a 5-kilometer run and will be capped by the freestyle kayaking competition at Charlie's Hole at 5 p.m., then a party at Sweetwater Grill starting at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday is highlighted by a 10 a.m. slalom race in Dr. Rich Weiss Park, and the final events of the festival come Monday with the Paddling Life Creek Race on Fish Creek at 5 p.m. and a 7 p.m. party at Carl's Tavern.

The festival has been larger in previous years than it will be this season, but it's also been smaller. Volunteers have come and they've gone, but despite the constant changes, Van De Carr said the spirit of the event has remained unchanged.

"I really like bringing attention to what I think is the centerpiece of the most beautiful valley on the Earth," he said. "I just really like people coming down and acknowledging this river, which needs way more TLC than we've been giving it.

"The festival doesn't raise much money. It's not a huge statewide event or a big competition. But what it does is make everyone in town aware of the river and how awesome of a force it is."