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The Wenatchee River Festival was a great event this year! With the weather in the mid 80’s (unlike the weekend previous when it was in the low 60’s and cloudy) we saw rising river levels throughout the entire weekend from snowmelt. Over 250 whitewater enthusiasts attended — mostly kayakers and few rafters — raising $10,000 for American Whitewater’s stewardship programs.

Saturday started with what everyone loves: "A free breakfast!" What a great way to start the day. All the usual venders had booths on the grass and in the sun, including Leavenworth Mountain Sports, giving free Jackson Kayak demos all weekend. The free shuttle service transported over 350 kayakers and boats up river, safari style.

The first event was the down river race – an event decided for the most part at the start, with 22 of us paddling in mass from one small eddy. Inexperienced racer that I am, I learned a few very important things about down stream racing:

#1) Not all currents are created equal. Be sure to have a good position in the eddy at the start.

#2) The herd mentality: even in a packed crowd of boats, it’s better to stay in the pack than to break out into an alternative current.

#3) If choosing the "alternative current" you will have the honor of paddling toward the backs of the helmets of the racers in front of you that were once behind you.

#4) If taking another "alternative current" to make up time, you will again have honor of paddling toward the same racers you passed before taking your less than stellar alternate route.

#5) Other racers get tired of you passing them multiple times.

#6) Even if you are about to puke and your gut is on fire at the finish line, there will still be a smile on your face and a sense of fulfillment. Time for more free food!

Adam at Leavenworth Mountain Sports cooked up some tasty dogs on the grill for all to enjoy (thanks Adam). I enlisted the family to help hand out JK promo DVDs. Cedar my 4 year old kayaker-in-training, found it to be his mission in life to make sure he gave everyone at the event a Jackson promo DVD (other kids first)..he was quite the rep. We also had the "Jackson Wagon" (a hot red Fun 1½ with wheels—the best wagon ever!) and gave lots of kids wagon rides in the park.

During the rodeo event I was asked to provide safety based on my rescue background, which meant I was downstream with a throw bag and didn’t get to see a thing. I did come very close to launching a bag for swimmers, when at the last second I realized the swimmers were actually boogie boarders. I wild mink was my sole companion at that isolated spot on the riverbank, and he didn’t stick around long.

A BBQ, auction and high-stakes round of rock-paper-scissors lead off the evening, following by a DJ’d dance floor for those with energy left (I think all the downstream racers retired early).

Sunday morning brought more Jackson Kayak demos and clinics. I was going to teach an on river rescue clinic, but due to lack of interest, my clinic was changed to a beginner clinic that turned out to be a lot of fun on several miles of class II water. The rest of the day I spent hanging out at the Leavenworth Mountain Sports booth helping answering questions, pulling the wagon, and watching Cedar hand out more DVDs while my wife Rebecca got to do a great paddle with a group of surf-loving women. Again, just because you have kids, doesn’t mean your kayaking days are over (like all my friends told me) — it just means you’ll need to coordinate.

I was honored to be JKs rep at the festival this year. I met a lot of new boaters and saw a lot of old friends. To see results and Pics check out.

Andy Graham JK Ambassador (AKA Kayakmedic)

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