Wet fun for all at fest

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— Some are drawn to the fast-moving waters of the Yampa in search of excitement, others will come for the feeling of friendship, all a part of one of Steamboat Springs' longest-running summer events.

For the past 23 years, the Yampa River Festival has drawn thousands of people to the river's banks every spring.

"It's just a good place to have fun," organizer Peter Van De Carr said. "We want to celebrate the river and recognize its importance to our community."

The weekend's events will begin 5 p.m. Friday with the boatercross.

"It's pretty silly," Van De Carr said of the opener.

Boaters in this race have to start with a lap around the parking lot next to Backdoor Sports on a miniature clown bike. After completing the lap, the athletes will hop into a pre-assigned kayak.

Van De Carr said the boat might not have a skirt that fits, or may be loaded down with rocks to make the journey down the river to the finish line a little more challenging.

The festival will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Bucci Pond, across from Casey's Pond on U.S. Highway 40, with the downriver race. The whitewater river rodeo will take place at 10 a.m. at the new hole adjacent to the library.

At noon, the festival will hold a brief ceremony to officially name the hole "Charlie's Hole" in recognition of local kayaking legend Charlie Beavers.

Van De Carr said the naming ceremony will include a short presentation and possibly a moment of silence for the kayaker, who died from injuries suffered in a fall in October 2002.

The Crazy River Dog contest will take place immediately following the ceremony. The finals of the whitewater River Festival will follow the Crazy River Dog contest.

In the evening, the Yampa River Gumbo Dinner and a silent auction will be held at the community center.

Van De Carr said the high water this year shouldn't affect the festival that much. The down river race may have to be moved further down river to avoid bridge crossings, which have little or no clearance right now.

"The river might go down before then, but we will have to see," Van De Carr said.

Van De Carr is expecting a good number of paddlers for this year's festivals, but thinks that the numbers may be down because of pro events in Vail and Durango. But with the large number of paddlers in the community and those who make Steamboat an annual stop, he's certain the festival will be very entertaining.

On Sunday, the River Festival will come to a close with slalom races at Rich Weiss Park. Racing will begin at 10 a.m. and will run until about 2 p.m.

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or

e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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