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36th annual Yampa River Festival to celebrate river, friendly competition

The 36th annual Yampa River Festival will commence this weekend with a variety of events and competitions on the Yampa River from the Raft Rodeo to the Kayak Cross, SUP cross, sprint and more.
Austin Colbert

36th annual Yampa River Festival schedule

Friday

6 p.m. — Fish Creek Race at Fish Creek Falls (via Steamboat Boulevard)

Saturday

11 a.m. — Raft Rodeo at Charlie’s Hole

11:30 to 2 p.m. — SUP and kayak demos at Fletcher Pond

Noon — Open Class Downriver Race (Start location TBD)

12:30 p.m. — SUP Cup: Sup Downriver Race (Start location TBD)

2 p.m. — Raft Race (Start location TBD)

2:30 p.m. — SUP Cup: SUP Timed Sprint at D-Hole to Charlie’s Hole

3:30 p.m. — Crazy River Dog Contest at Charlie’s Hole

3:45 p.m. — SUP Cup: SUP Cross at Z Wave to Charlie’s Hole

4 p.m. — Tube Rodeo at Charlie’s Hole

5 p.m. — Kayak Cross at Z Wave to Charlie's Hole

6 p.m — Kayak Freestyle Rodeo at Charlie’s Hole

7 p.m. — Awards at Charlie’s Hole

8 p.m. — River Fest after party at Sake2U

— It runs a 250-mile course from the Flat Tops to the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument, it provides a natural resource and habitat for species along its banks and it is a source of unparalleled recreation.

The wild Yampa River has many attributes, but sometimes, these may be under-appreciated or skewed by everyday life.

Not this weekend, however.



36th annual Yampa River Festival schedule

Friday

6 p.m. — Fish Creek Race at Fish Creek Falls (via Steamboat Boulevard)



Saturday

11 a.m. — Raft Rodeo at Charlie’s Hole

11:30 to 2 p.m. — SUP and kayak demos at Fletcher Pond

Noon — Open Class Downriver Race (Start location TBD)

12:30 p.m. — SUP Cup: Sup Downriver Race (Start location TBD)

2 p.m. — Raft Race (Start location TBD)

2:30 p.m. — SUP Cup: SUP Timed Sprint at D-Hole to Charlie’s Hole

3:30 p.m. — Crazy River Dog Contest at Charlie’s Hole

3:45 p.m. — SUP Cup: SUP Cross at Z Wave to Charlie’s Hole

4 p.m. — Tube Rodeo at Charlie’s Hole

5 p.m. — Kayak Cross at Z Wave to Charlie’s Hole

6 p.m — Kayak Freestyle Rodeo at Charlie’s Hole

7 p.m. — Awards at Charlie’s Hole

8 p.m. — River Fest after party at Sake2U

In celebration of the river and all it provides, the 36th annual Yampa River Festival will offer a variety of activities and a splash of competitions.

The festivities get underway Friday with the Fish Creek Race starting at 6 p.m. at Fish Creek Falls. On Saturday, a full day of events and competitions will kick off at 11 a.m., including the Raft Rodeo, this year’s new event.

“This should prove to be a rowdy event where small rafts will attempt to surf the Charlie’s Hole, spin their boats and stay in the hole the longest,” said Kent Vertrees, Friends of the Yampa board secretary and one of the event’s organizers.

Vertrees said a crowd favorite from past years has been the Tube Rodeo, which will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday at Charlie’s Hole. Competitors will surf Charlie’s Hole in inner tubes, wearing helmets, PFDs and cold-water gear. The competitor who turns in the longest, most-graceful surf will win a golden tube and cash prize.

Spectators can watch Saturday’s action primarily at Charlie’s Hole, near Bud Werner Memorial Library, where the beer garden and food and retail vendors will be stationed. Butcherknife and B&K Distributing will begin pouring beer at noon.

On Saturday evening, the River Fest After Party will be held at Sake2U, where Dj Steezy Nicks will begin spinning tunes at 9 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Dogs must be leashed, and no alcohol will be allowed on the premises. Organizers are advising attendees to ride bikes or walk to the event, as parking will be limited.

Explore Steamboat asked Vertrees and Holley Gardel, Friends of the Yampa board member and event organizer, which competitions, costumes and competitors to be on the lookout for.

Explore Steamboat: Who are some of the competitors (locals or out-of-town) the crowd should be on the lookout for?

Kent Vertrees: We have a raft team that has now won the raft race four years in a row. Going by 5 White G’s & a Flip, led by guide Bill Murphy, these locals have dominated the race. There are many teams that come out and are gunning for winning the Wayne Kakela Paddle, which is the traveling trophy for the race.

ES: What kind of costumes can we expect to see? Any favorites from previous years?

Holley Gardel: There’s a team of ladies called The Dirty Oars, and they always enter with great costumes. Typically, we see a lot of creativity of the costumes, with everything from tutus to wresting masks and ninja turtles.

ES: What is your favorite Yampa River Festival event and why?

KV: I’m partial to the rafting elements due to my love of river rafting and the team-building aspects of the activity. The Raft Race is our largest competition due to how many participants are involved. Last season, we saw more rafts and people participate in the event than ever before, with nearly 100 people and over 15 rafts. 

HG: I love watching the Kayak Rodeo event; there’s so much talent. I’m a kayaker and love it, but I can’t get my boat and my body to do that. I’m always really impressed with those guys out there. It’s a great spectator sport with constant entertainment.

ES: Why do you love the Yampa River Festival?

HG: Everyone loves this river. The people who live here enjoy it in their own way, whether that’s walking down the Core Trail, bird watching, kayaking, rafting, fishing or sitting and reading near it. It brings everybody who uses this river together in one celebration. It’s a great community event on so many levels.

KV: I love this event, as it brings together a fun-loving, adventure-filled community of people in celebration of one of Colorado’s most cherished rivers, the Yampa. We are so fortunate to live in a place like Northwest Colorado and have such a wild river running through our world. Most rivers in the Colorado basin have been dammed, diverted and drained to the point where they don’t see the wildness like we do on the Yampa. The Yampa River Festival is, more than anything, a hometown event where layers of the Steamboat community come out and celebrate all things Yampa.

Registration for the competitions will continue through Friday evening, and walk-up registration will be available beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday morning at the registration tent.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@ExploreSteamboat.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1


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