Something (wet, wild and mild) for everyone
Gunnison River Festival ready for year 11
Times Staff Writer
Originally published 2013-06-20
A guy named Heraclitus may have proposed that no man will ever step in the same river twice, but John Messner is proposing that no man, or woman, will ever find the Gunnison River Festival to be redundant.
In year 11, Gunnison’s own homage to the waterways that make life possible — in the form of a five day
festival — is bigger, better and more likely to entail something for everyone.
“There’s a lot of different festivals around the state and western U.S. and most of those are focused on the whitewater aspect of our rivers,” said Messner, festival coordinator. “We’ve tried to develop our river festival into a general celebration of rivers, including all the aspects that make them the lifeblood of these communities.”
While carnage in the surf of Gunnison’s Whitewater Park remains to be a major menu item on this year’s schedule, it’s the flood of events and opportunities that are slated to take place in conjunction that Messner hopes will tie everything together.
Today, Thursday, June 20, local water guru George Sibley gives a presentation about the Gunnison River system during boat tours of Morrow Point Reservoir, from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
“This is a unique opportunity to bring together many of the user groups and organizations that keep our river systems thriving,” said Messner. “We’ve tried to put together a schedule of activities that cover a broad spectrum and can showcase how all these things fit together.”
One element of the festival that isn’t new — but will provide ample opportunity for younger river lovers to engage in the action — will be the High Country Citizens’ Alliance (HCCA) Kids Zone that sets up shop from 9:30 a.m to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The Kids Zone features educational and interactive opportunities right alongside the meat of races and competitions that take place at the Whitewater Park.
“Most kids love to play in the water, but they probably aren’t aware of all that’s happening in our rivers,” said Jennifer Bock, water director for HCCA. “The kids’ fun zone will make that connection. We’ll be doing river-based art, talking about the bugs that live in the river, how rivers flow and what our favorite things are about our rivers.”
The Gunnison River Festival Extravaganza at Legion Park on Friday evening will feature live music from Rx Flannel and Musketeer Gripweed, while food and beverages will be plentiful (see related story on B2).
Even folks’ four-legged friends have an event carved out for their enjoyment on Saturday, when the Waggin’ Tails Canine Big Air Competition hits the Whitewater Park at 10:30 a.m. A Trout Unlimited Fly Casting Competition, multiple disciplines of boat and kayak competitions and the ever-popular “Hooligan Race” complete the picture for a day jam-packed with water-based fun.
The stage moves west to Blue Mesa Reservoir on Sunday, where there will be an open water swimming race, SUP and kayak/canoe races and another opportunity for canine companions to get involved.
As of Wednesday morning, flows on the Gunnison River were peaking right above 1,000 cubic feet per second. According to Messner, that’s just about perfect conditions for a full weekend of whitewater fun.
“Water flows are going to be good ... higher than we anticipated initially,” he said.
Messner added that a new trail system at the Whitewater Park should help spectators and participants navigate their way to and from events throughout the weekend.
For a complete schedule of events for this year’s Gunnison River Festival, see sidebar. For more information, including prices for registering in each event, visit gunnisonriverfestival.com.
(Matt Smith can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org)