Paddlefest in Buena Vista offers an amazing start to the summer in a picture-perfect mountain setting. Held over Memorial Day weekend, the event draws thousands of attendees and spectators who love river sports. Whether you’re interested in kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, or rafting, you’re sure to have an incredible time at Paddlefest. Even if you’re new to these sports or have never tried them, there are lots of other events throughout the weekend that are sure to please. So, if you’re looking for a new Memorial Day adventure, head to Buena Vista for Paddlefest.
History of Paddlefest
“Buena Vista’s PaddleFest originally started as a simple gear swap get together held every spring. River rats would strike deals, exchanging PFDs for drysuits at the beginning of the season, stocking up on whitewater essentials for the summer ahead. Eventually word of mouth spread making this event one of the largest paddlesports gear swaps in the state of Colorado! Embracing the opportunity, the community of Buena Vista partnered with BV based CKS, Colorado’s largest paddlesports retailer, to put on the amazing event as we know it today… PaddleFest is now a multi day event, attracting thousands of whitewater aficionados.” Wilderness Aware Rafting
What Sorts of Events Happen During Paddlefest?
“Since its start in 2001 PaddleFest has grown to include instructional courses on the river and flat water, professional and amateur kayaking competitions, a used gear swap, guest speakers, live music, games for kids and adults, special events, and industry vendors.” Buena Vista Colorado
Paddlefest 2018 Event Schedule
Friday, May 25th – Monday, May 28th
9 a.m. – 7 p.m. – CKS Main Street Sale – Get 15% to 50% off just about everything in the store!
Friday, May 25th – Sunday, May 27th
Times Vary – Vendor Village – Check out all the vendor booths at South Main. There will be lots of great products as well as delicious food and drink. Friday: 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sunday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Times Vary – Beer Garden – Kick back and relax with a variety of libations available at South Main. Friday: 4 p.m – 10 p.m. Saturday: Daytime Libation Hut 12 p.m. – 4 p.m., Beer Garden 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Times Vary – SUP Yoga – Combine yoga and stand up paddleboards in this introductory class held on the Buena Vista Town Pond. Friday: 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday: 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. & 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. Sunday: 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.
11 a.m. – Informal Group Paddle – Get your gear and meet outside CKS Main Street where you’ll find other paddlers and decide on a section of the river to run. This is a great opportunity to meet new friends!
11 a.m. – 3 p.m. – Whitewater Demos – Check out all the 2018 kayaks, paddles, and stand up paddleboards that are available for demos in the Buena Vista River Park. If you’ve been thinking about getting new gear, this is a great way to try it out before you buy.
7:30 p.m. – Awards Ceremonies – The South Main Stage will host the awards ceremonies every day of the festival. Please note that the Sunday awards will take place at 3:30 p.m.
Friday, May 25th & Saturday, May 26th
9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center Kayak L1 Strokes & Balance Course – This course is great for beginners or for those who just need a refresher. It covers bracing, strokes, posture, edging, and an introduction to the roll. Lunch and gear is included in the cost of the course.
Saturday, May 26th & Sunday, May 27th
All Day – Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center L2 Essentials of River Kayaking Course – With this course, kayakers will develop a better understanding of basic river hydrology as well as basic moves like the eddy turn, ferry, and peel-outs.
9 a.m. – 11 a.m. – Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center Kids Paddle at the Pond Course – Each day, there will be four half-hour courses at McPhelerney Pond where kids can learn a little bit more about kayaking and stand up paddling.
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. – Gear SWAP – Drop off your gear on Friday, May 25th (from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) for cash or get store credit so you can buy more gear!
10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center Roll Tune-Up Clinic– Half-hour, one-on-one instructional sessions help you to develop your rolling skills even more.
12 p.m. – 1 p.m. – Flatwater Play for Whitewater Stomping – This course will give you a number of tips and tricks to help you stay on top of your paddleboard even through whitewater conditions.
12 p.m. – 3 p.m. – Flatwater Demos – Five dollars gets you 15 minutes to try out demo gear on the Town Pond. Company reps will also be on hand to answer all of your gear-related questions.
Friday, May 25th
10 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Random Doubles Prep Lap for Yucca Classic – Meet up for an informal round of disc golf at the Buena Vista Disc Golf course to get ready for the 7th Annual Yucca Classic.
4 p.m. – 10 p.m. – Town Party – Kick up your heels at The Beach at South Main for the annual town party. There will be food, drinks, and lots of fun.
4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. – Buena Vista Kayak Rodeo Qualifying Round – Talented freestyle kayakers from around the world show off their skills and compete for a spot in the Kayak Rodeo.
6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Live Music at The Beach: A Shadow of Jaguar – “A Shadow of Jaguar is a gritty rock and roll band, and that’s really all you need to know… Their sets are almost entirely original songs; but the natural dynamic of the two piece leads to improvisation that involves the crowd, making every show unique.” CKS Paddlefest
10 p.m. – 2 a.m. – Live Music at The Lariat: The Magic Beans – “The Magic Beans are band with a passion for music that is as infectious as their songs, both of which have gained them national notoriety in a short time. Much like the tastes of modern music lovers, the band’s sound isn’t confined to one-genre. The Beans strive to be as inclusive as possible by skirting the lines between many genres within their unique sound.” CKS Paddlefest
Saturday, May 26th
9 a.m. – 1 p.m. – 8th Annual Yucca Classic Disc Golf Tournament – Held at the Buena Vista Disc Golf course, this tournament raises money for the Chaffee County Search and Rescue North. There will be Men’s Advanced and Intermediate Divisions as well as Women and Youth Divisions.
9 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Buena Vista Kayak Rodeo – The Kayak Rodeo is one of the most popular events at Paddlefest. This year, there will also be a competition round open to amateurs, which lasts from 9 a.m. to noon. The Cadet competition (ages 6 to 13) lasts from noon to 1 p.m. Juniors competition (ages 14 to 17) is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Semi-finals last for two hours and start at 2 p.m. The final round of competition starts at 4 p.m. and lasts until 6 p.m.
10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Kayak Stroke Clinic with Stephen Wright – In this clinic, you’ll learn how to move your kayak more effectively and efficiently.
5 p.m. – 6 p.m. – SUPHill Downhill – In this race, participants start by paddling upstream around buoys and then come down river around buoys to finish in South Main. It’s a quick and fun competition that involves a lot of hard paddling.
6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Live Music at The Beach: Durango Funk Allstars – “Durango Funk Allstars bring high energy funk … Giving you all improv every show.” CKS Paddlefest
10 p.m. – 2 a.m. – Live Music at The Lariat: Dragondeer – “Dragondeer is a psych-blues band from Denver, Colorado whose singular, reverb drenched take on old school blues and soul coupled with inspired improvisation has the band making fans in roots circles as well as indie clubs all across Colorado and beyond.” CKS Paddlefest
Sunday, May 27th
8:15 a.m. – Spirit Trail Run: 8K and Half Marathon – The 8K race takes participants on a singletrack run through the Barbara Whipple trail system. Those who run in the half marathon will travel through several trails in the Buena Vista Trail System. Both races involve a moderate amount of elevation gain.
8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m. – Clauson Challenge – Numbers Raft Race – Rafting teams of four to six paddlers compete to see who can get from Number 1 to Number 5 on the river the fastest.
9 a.m. – 11 a.m. – Numbers Kayak Race – Kayakers compete to see who can get from Number 1 to Number 5 on the river the fastest.
9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center L2 Essentials of River SUP Course – With this course, stand up paddlers will develop a better understanding of basic river hydrology as well as basic moves like the eddy turn, ferry, and peel-outs.
9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. – Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center L3 Kayak Basic River Running Course – Kayakers will learn more about river running tactics as well as how to read water and identify hazards in this informative course.
12 p.m. – Women’s Group Paddle – Meet and mingle with other ladies who love paddling. All levels of paddlers are welcome, with different drop points based on ability levels.
12:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. – Live Music at The Beach: Ponder the Albatross – “Somewhere in the eternal vastness of space and time, somewhere upon a westward wind, there is a point where Gypsy Punk, Jam Band and New Grass collide with cosmic force. That point is Ponder the Albatross.” CKS Paddlefest
1 p.m. – 3:30 p.m – Bouldering Competition – Beginner to advanced-level climbers can compete in this fun event. Participants have 15 minutes to climb as many routes as possible and get full points if they don’t fall.
2 p.m. – Practice Lap for Race to the Grill – Get a practice run in before the official race on Monday.
2 p.m. – Badfish River Surf Competition – This fun and friendly competition allows men, women, and kids to show off their skills as they tackle the waves in the Buena Vista River Park.
3 p.m. – Buoy Bonanza – This family-friendly competition is perfect for all ages and abilities. Participants use kayaks or stand up paddleboards to race around buoys on the Town Pond.
6 p.m. – Holcombe Famagogo Slideshow – Held at the Buena Vista Community Center, the slideshow documents the Holcombe family’s four-year road trip across North America.
Monday, May 28th
9 a.m. – 11 a.m. – River Clean Up – Take some time to make the river beautiful again by helping with the river clean up efforts. There’s a raffle at the end, so you may even win something once you’re done.
12:30 p.m – 2 p.m. – Race to the Grill – The Race to the Grill is Paddlefest’s final event. It’s a sprint race open to kayakers and stand up paddlers. Beginning at AAE Rafting in Johnson Village, the race finishes at River Runners Grill.