Paddlefest excitement grows…and grows

Paddlefest excitement grows…and grows
The group flatwater canoe and kayak trip to Rollercoaster rapids was one of many pre-Paddlefest events happening in and around Fort Smith.Photo by Paul Bannister.

Excitement is growing in the Slave River Rapids paddling community as Paddlefest, their annual celebration of the river, draws near.

“I’m very excited,” said Kirsten Bradley, the event organizer for the third year in a row. “But the most exciting thing, at least for me, is that we’re having two-person kayaks that people with absolutely no experience can get a ride in with a professional paddler and see the river first-hand.”

This adventure can be had by simply signing a waiver and paying $15.

“All of the proceeds, after we pay off the insurance, from the double-kayaking will be donated to the food bank,” said Bradley.

Guided hikes are being held this week, taking the curious along trails to view the various rapids and learn a little more about the area.

“All of the hikes will bring people down to the rapids, and people can register for the hikes at the visitor centre,” said Bradley.

This year’s canoe race has been altered slightly to accommodate paddlers of varying skill levels.

“We are offering two options for the canoe race this year,” said Bradley. “We will be holding the full 42-kilometre race as well as a 21-kilometre race with a much more relaxed pace.”

This year’s Paddlefest also offers those participating in the flotilla a more streamlined experience.

“We are also offering a bus service for the flotilla,” said Bradley. “Participants will drive to Hay Camp before the flotilla begins, drop their boats off, drive back to Fort Fitzgerald. A shuttle bus will then take them back to their boats and then they proceed down the Slave towards their vehicles.”

Smith’s Landing First Nation is hosting a feast on Friday night, and all are welcome.

“The feast will feature a hand games competition, and Peter Daniels will also be hosting Dene games as well,” said Bradley.

Bradley and her fellow Paddlefest organizers are looking forward to the weekend’s events, hoping that everyone comes out regardless of their paddling experience.

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