Kayakers crash into Charlie’s Hole on Saturday after the freestyle rodeo during the Yampa River Festival in Steamboat Springs.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Kayakers crash into Charlie’s Hole on Saturday after the freestyle rodeo during the Yampa River Festival in Steamboat Springs.

Yampa River Festival a splash hit; event resumes Sunday

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Yampa River Festival: Slalom race

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Yampa River Festival casual float

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— They keep getting bigger and better. On Saturday, the ever-improving local kayakers had no problems eliciting loud applause from the large crowd gathered for the main events of the Yampa River Festival.

A long day of river-borne competitions saw locals take to the rapids in crafts of all shapes and sizes, from large rafts to tiny tubes. They rode long canoe-like skis and, of course, kayaks, which helped act as the day’s on-the-water finale.

Adam Mayo and Dan Piano clashed all day long, their longtime friendship often shining through their rabid competitiveness. It all came to a head in the afternoon’s kayaking Freestyle Rodeo at Charlie’s Hole, where the two battled to a draw in the finals. Mayo got the nod overall, however, by virtue of a higher first-round score.

Considering that Piano won the downriver race earlier in the day, edging Mayo with only the nose of his boat, it all worked out to be pretty even, and that was just fine for everybody.

“Dan and I always really push each other,” Mayo said. “We’re all pretty close friends, a close-knit group, and whoever wins, we all celebrate together.”

The kayaking rodeo long has been one of the most exciting events of the Yampa River Festival, and this year didn’t disappoint. Piano and Mayo shined, flipping and spinning more than they ever have. A crop of young boaters proved almost their equal, however, drawing large cheers of their own with equally massive moves in the rushing water of the Yampa.

“That was a lot of fun,” 18-year-old boater Karsten Thompson said. “The flows were a little low, so we couldn’t go quite as big as we wanted, but we all did pretty well.

“It’s always a fun event. The Yampa River Festival is always pretty relaxed.”

The festival is always a half-serious event, with river-loving locals as concerned with having a good time as they are with winning any particular event.

Spencer Lacy won the downriver race, ahead of Gary Lacy in second and Betsy Frick in third. Mason Lacy was tops in a 5-kilometer running race that opened the day’s activities. Spencer Lacy was second, and Mike Patoczak was third on the men’s side. Zoe Roy was first, Sarah Piano second and Molly Etters third for the women.

The festival returns Sunday with more action. There’s a slalom event at Dr. Rich Weiss Park starting at 10 a.m., a float down the river at noon and a postparty barbecue at Little Toots Park at 5 p.m.

Monday again will bring some of the world’s best kayakers to the Yampa for the Paddling Life Pro Open, which has been shifting its schedule to try to take advantage of changing water conditions. The event will open at noon with a rodeo at Charlie’s Hole before shifting to Fish Creek for a race at 4 p.m., assuming the creek is running at an appropriate level.

Festival schedule

■ Sunday

10 a.m. to noon Slalom race at Dr. Rich Weiss Park. $10 per participant.

Noon Casual float starting at River Creek Park off Walton Creek Road. Free.

5 p.m. Barbecue at Little Toots Park.

■ Monday

Paddling Life Pro Open

Noon to 3 p.m. Pro Rodeo at Charlie’s Hole near Bud Werner Memorial Library

4 to 6 p.m. Fish Creek race (subject to stream flows)

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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