40th annual Yampa River Fest paddles over to virtual format | SteamboatToday.com
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40th annual Yampa River Fest paddles over to virtual format

A kayaker participated in the 2019 Yampa River Festival.
Katie Berning

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When it became clear that the three-day party of 39 previous Yampa River Festivals wouldn’t be able to safely occur during spring 2020, its organizers jumped right into adapting the celebration into a new form. The festival, which couldn’t be postponed past June due to the river flows its races require, is set to take place as a monthlong, part-outdoor, part-online hybrid celebration. The theme is “For the love of the Yampa.” 

From June 1 to 24, river lovers of all ages and abilities are welcome to take on various event challenges, ranging from river activities that have long been crowd favorites of the festival to new dryland activities. But instead of competing with other participants side by side, participants record their skills in the form of photos, videos or original artwork, in ways that are in line with social distancing guidelines.

For instance, in the SUP Adventure event challenge, participants may show off their stand-up surfing, their sit-down meditation, their SUP yoga poses, their balancing-multiple-humans-on-one-board prowess, their outrageous falls — or whatever else they can think of. 

“We don’t expect people to be pros,” said Friends of the Yampa Program Manager Lindsey Marlow. “We want people to participate. It’s all about engagement, creativity and fun.” 

The SUP Adventure challenge is sponsored by Hala Paddleboards and Hala GearSpace. 

Other event challenges include:

  • Raft Downriver family cruise/team hustle challenge, sponsored by Good Vibes River Gear in Craig
  • Raft Rodeo challenge, sponsored by Storm Peak Brewing Co.
  • Kayak Downriver challenge, sponsored by Backdoor Sports
  • Kayak Rodeo, sponsored by CKS Online
  • Crazy Dog challenge, for the river dogs and their owners, sponsored by Smartwool
The Raft Rodeo Challenge from the 2019 Yampa River Festival in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Katie Berning

New events include:

  • Fly Fishing Moment: Anglers show off their best catches, sponsored by Hog Island Boatworks
  • Yampa River Stewardship: Participants show how they care for the river, sponsored by Friends of the Yampa
  • Yampa Valley Heritage: Participants share their stories of the river as photos, videos, writing, maps or other forms, sponsored by the Community Ag Alliance
  • Yampa River Art: All artists are encouraged to share their art of any medium that was inspired by the Yampa, sponsored by “The Yampa Is Wild” artist Jill Bergman. 

“The whole goal is to celebrate the river, and you can do that in a lot of ways,” Marlow said. 

If you go

What: The State of the Yampa Address
When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. June 25
Where: online (details TBA)
Cost: Free, with donations accepted

Marlow notes a silver lining of the virtual, monthlong format of this year’s festival is that it allows for flexibility and offers the opportunity to expand engagement to wider audiences, including people across the Yampa Valley and younger audiences who might not have participated in the in-person races. 

“This (virtual monthlong component) would be a great thing to continue in addition to the three-day event for years to come,” she said.

In addition to respecting all social distancing guidelines, participants’ entries must take place within the Yampa watershed, and participants are reminded to respect safety protocols, private property boundaries and river health and cleanliness. Participants may submit multiple entries in however many categories they’d like. 

How to submit

Post submission on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag of the event entering, as well as the event hashtag — #yampariverfestival — and tag Friends of the Yampa.

  • SUP Adventure: #YRFSUPadventure
  • Raft Downriver: #YRFraftdownriver
  • Raft Rodeo: #YRFraftrodeo
  • Kayak Downriver: #YRFkayakdownriver
  • Kayak Rodeo: #YRFkayakrodeo
  • Crazy Dog: #YRFcrazydog
  • Fly Fishing Moment: #YRFflyfishingmoment
  • Yampa River Stewardship: #YRFyampariverstewardship
  • Yampa Valley Heritage: #YRFyampavalleyheritage
  • Yampa River Art: #YRFyampariverart

Marlow noted the event sponsors were enthusiastic about the festival’s new format, and while monetary donations are down, in-kind donations are up: prizes include a Jackson Mixmaster kayak, a Hala SUP board, some hefty gift certificates to local businesses and more. 

Entries are due by noon June 24; entries may be submitted via social media or by email to info@friendsoftheyampa.com

Yampa River Festival in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Katie Berning

Winners will be announced during The State of the Yampa Address webinar at 6 p.m. June 25. The event will showcase river advocates, professionals and creatives in various forms, aiming to raise awareness around river-related topics including the environment, agriculture, recreation, economy and community.

“We hope people attend and get more involved in what’s going on in the valley,” Marlow said.

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.


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