Hank: Beth Groundwater--one of the hardest working authors is the biz!--made me laugh with this topic. I'm nearing the end of a manuscript (crossing fingers) and looking for that one final twist--and I kept thinking--"I'm up the creek without a paddle."
And then Beth (whose new series stars a cool and fearless whitewater ranger who always has a paddle) suggested she write about this amazing Whitewater festival.
Ah, worlds collide.
The First in Boating on the Arkansas (FIBArk) Whitewater Festival has a long history, with the 63rd one planned for Wednesday-Sunday, June 15-19, this year in Salida, Colorado. Its slogan is “America’s Oldest and Boldest Whitewater Festival.” Thousands of people converge on this small mountain valley town from all over the world to compete in and watch the events. As a whitewater enthusiast, I’ve attended FIBArk a few times, and I'll never tire of it. I look forward to coming to this wild, wet party for many years to come. It’s a great excuse to visit picturesque Salida, Colorado in the summertime.
The first FIBArk in 1949 featured just one race, a 57-mile long downriver race from Salida to Canon City at the bottom of the treacherous Royal Gorge. Of 23 entrants in a variety of two- and one-man watercraft, only two finished the race. Since then, this classic downriver race has been shortened to 25.7 miles, leaving out the Royal Gorge.
It is still the longest whitewater race in the United States. But, this isn’t the only race in the festival any longer.
Now there are a variety of long-distance and sprint races for kayaks, canoes, rafts, and stand-up paddle boards. There are rodeo events where boaters display gymnastic prowess, flipping and twisting their boats in the rapids. And there are junior races for youngsters. Multiple award ceremonies and parties last long into the night.
My favorite event, the Hooligan Race, isn’t really a race. Teams build creative rafts out of anything that can float, pick a theme and dress up in costumes. Then they run those rafts in heats through the whitewater park in downtown Salida past huge crowds lining the banks.
The beer flows, the spectators jeer and cheer, and teams spray water cannons and hoses at the crowd. It’s not so much a competition for which raft is the fastest, but for which team of the surviving boats puts on the most entertaining performance.
Mandy’s boyfriend Rob plays to the crowd and to Mandy’s heart while riding in his Hooligan Race entry in Deadly Currents. You can see some of the creative rafts in past races in the photos below, including a giant turtle,
and a Katrina house.
Also, a parade winds through town on one day of the festival, and other side competitions have cropped up, such as mountain bike races, a Frisbee golf tournament, 5K & 10K runs, a talent show and karaoke competition, skateboard and climbing wall competitions, and even a crazy river dog contest.
There’s never a dull moment!
Deadly Currents, the first book in my new RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner, takes place in Salida, Colorado during the annual FIBArk whitewater festival. And like the actual river rangers who work for the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA), Mandy both patrols the river and volunteers at various events during the festival. All the activity keeps her busy while she tries to figure out who killed local developer Tom King.
Have you ever gone whitewater rafting or kayaking? What did you think of it? Does your city/town put on a summer festival? What is its theme and what do you most like about it?
Remember, everyone who comments will be entered into a contest for a free copy of Deadly Currents. If you’d like to see what the other stops are on my virtual book tour, go to: http://bethgroundwater.com/2011_Virtual_Book_Tour.html
and if you’d like to order an autographed copy of Deadly Currents, go to the website for Black Cat Books http://manitoubooks.com/ and click on "Contact Us”. Either call the phone number or fill out the form with your contact information.
Beth Groundwater writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series (A Real Basket Case, a 2007 Best First Novel Agatha Award finalist, and To Hell in a Handbasket, 2009) and the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner.
The first, Deadly Currents, will be released March 8th.
Beth lives in Colorado and enjoys its many outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, and whitewater rafting. She loves talking to book clubs, too, and not just for the gossip and wine! Please visit her website at bethgroundwater.com and her blog at bethgroundwater.blogspot.com.