Steamboat Springs With record snowpack lingering in the high country above Steamboat Springs, the Yampa River is likely to command the region’s attention for much of the next month.
It certainly will captivate Steamboat Springs this weekend as the annual Yampa River Festival returns to the river’s shores. Action got under way Thursday night with a movie at Bud Werner Memorial Library, continues Friday with a registration party from 4 to 7 p.m. at Sunpie’s Bistro and begins in earnest Saturday, with a full day of activities planned.
Most of the activities that make Steamboat’s festival unique and popular will return. Plenty of new activities are on tap, as well, starting at 11 a.m. Saturday with 5- and 1-kilometer running races at the Depot Art Center in downtown Steamboat.
This year also will mark the most focus the festival has dedicated to stand-up paddleboarding, a sport comparatively new to the Yampa River and one that enthusiasts insist anyone can get the hang of. People will be allowed to demo boards and participate in a race starting at 1 p.m. at Fetcher Pond.
“The sport is growing in popularity, and we’re trying to bring it a little more mainstream,” said Todd Givnish, who’s organizing that portion of the festival. “This will allow people to try the sport out, and the people who have been more involved can test their skills in a fun race.”
Givnish will be among those trying to show just how great stand-up paddleboarding can be in demonstrations Saturday at Fetcher Pond. The still pond should make for friendly conditions compared to the roaring river
“On flat water, if you have some athletic ability, it’s not too bad,” he said about picking up the sport. “You usually fall off a few times but figure it out pretty quick. On moving water, in a river or an ocean, balancing is a little more challenging. We’ll have a bunch of different boards people can try, and if they pick it up fast enough, they can even race that day.”
The stand-up paddleboarding comes in the middle of a busy Saturday.
The running races open things at 11 a.m. Downriver kayak and canoe race registration begins at 11:30 a.m. at Fetcher Pond. A raft race is at 2:30 p.m., starting at Fetcher Pond. The Crazy River Dog Contest is at 3:30, and the inner tube rodeo at 4:30, both at the D-Hole. A kayak rodeo, which this year features a classification for old-school classical crafts, will begin at 5 p.m. at the D-Hole, and a party at 7 p.m. at the Depot Art Center will close the day out.
Sunday begins with a canoe and kayak slalom race at 10 a.m. at Dr. Rich Weiss Park. That will be followed at 3 p.m. by a Respect the Yampa float down the river to a 5 p.m. barbecue at the D-Hole.
Monday brings on the big dogs of kayaking. The Paddling Life Pro Invitational begins at 10 a.m., though the exact order of events won’t be set until Sunday afternoon as organizers are keeping an eye on flow levels for the river and Fish Creek. The event will include a whitewater race down Fish Creek and a freestyle competition at the D-Hole in downtown Steamboat Springs. The holiday weekend will end with a party at 6:30 p.m. at Sweetwater Grill.
Yampa River Festival schedule
4 to 7 p.m. Yampa River Festival registration party at Sunpie’s Bistro. Register for all events for $30 or for individual events for $5 to $10 each.
11 a.m. The Yampa River Festival kicks off with 5- and 1-kilometer running races at the Depot Art Center.
11:30 a.m. Downriver kayak and canoe race registration at Fetcher Pond. The entry fee is $10. The race starts at noon.
1 p.m. Stand-up paddleboarding race and demos at Fetcher Pond.
1:30 p.m. Raft race sign-up at Fetcher Pond. The race is at 2:30 p.m. and goes to the D-Hole. There will be five rafts available on a first-come, first-served basis; call Kent at 970-846-7933 to reserve a raft. Cost for participants is $10 per paddler. Costumes are highly recommended; best-dressed team gets cash prize. The winning raft also will get a cash prize. All participants are required to wear personal floatation devices. No shuttle is provided.
3:30 p.m. Register at the D-Hole for the Crazy River Dog Contest. The race is downstream. Dogs must retrieve a stick tossed into the river and bring it to their owner’s hand. The cost is $10 per dog.
4:30 p.m. Inner tube rodeo at the D-Hole. Tubes are provided, or bring your own. Judging is based on longest ride and best trick. Personal flotation devices are required, and helmets are recommended. The entry fee is $10.
5 to 8 p.m. The kayak rodeo is at the D-Hole. There are men, women, juniors and vintage classes. The entry fee is $10.
7 p.m. The River Fiesta is at the Depot Art Center with the Brian Smith Band. Donations accepted for food and drink vouchers.
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.
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 www.paddlinglife.net or call 970-870-0880 for more information.
Call Pete Van De Carr at Backdoor Sports at 970-879-6249 or visit www.friendsoftheyampa.com for details about the festival.
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com