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Paddlefest is the traditional start of the summer season in Buena Vista. 2022 photo by Landon James.

River lovers should prepare for four days of fun Friday, May 26 through Sunday, May 28 as CKS Paddlefest returns this Memorial Day Weekend with old favorites and new twists. The CKS Triple Crown is the newest event to join the lineup.

The Triple Crown is “An event designed to see who is the best all-around paddler in the world, or at least the Arkansas Valley” according to Paddlefest’s website. The three-stage event includes the Numbers Race, Freestyle Comps, and Three Rock Splat Challenge to determine who can go the fastest, look the coolest, and have the most fun.

The winner of the men’s and women’s classes will get their name on a trophy which will be displayed in the CKS Main Street shop. Every person who enters an event will also receive a raffle ticket. Tickets will be drawn for prizes, so participants can still win prizes even if they do not take the crown. The awards ceremony, prize raffle, and pie eating will occur after the Three Rock Splat Challenge at Christof’s Bridge below the Buena Vista River Park.

A full list of events including live music throughout the weekend, the thirteenth annual Yucca Classic Disc Golf Tournament, and a sitewide sale at the CKS store is available here.

Image courtesy CKS Paddlefest

Paddlefest Challenge Details

Pine Creek Giant Slalom

5:00 p.m. Friday, May 26

This sprint kayak race through the Pine Creek Rapid consists of two individual runs. Competitors will navigate up to 5 slalom gates placed strategically to steer them away from potential dangers in the rapids. The fastest run will claim victory. Entry to the event will be limited to available parking at the Pine Creek Rapid.

Freestyle Kayak Rodeo

9:00 a.m. Friday, May 26 at the Top Hole in the Buena Vista River Park

12:00 Noon Saturday, May 27 at the Competition Wave in the Buena Vista River Park

Register on-site at 9:00 a.m. on Friday and 11:00 a.m. on Saturday.

River Surf Competition

10:00 a.m. Saturday, May 27

Registered participants will meet at the Staircase Wave for warmups. The competition will begin at 11:00 a.m. This event is for experienced river SUP and Prone Surfers. Entry fee ranges from $25 to $35.

Numbers Kayak and Raft Race

12:00 Noon Sunday, May 28

Time trials in the Numbers section of the Arkansas River. Beginning at noon, racers will be released at one-minute intervals to race rapids Number 1 through the eddy at Number 5.5. Class IV paddling experience is required. Categories include Men’s Long Boat (9 feet to 12 feet 6 inches), Men’s Short Boat (under 9 feet), and Women’s Open (all boats), R4 Men’s Raft, and R4 Women’s Raft. Entry fees range from $35 to $40.

2022 Paddlefest gymnastics

Three Rock Splat Competition

3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 28

The Fourth Annual: Three Rock Splat Challenge will take place under Beaver Falls bridge at the bottom of the BV Whitewater Park (also known as Ramsour Bridge). All crafts are welcome.

The Splat is a downriver freestyle challenge where competitors must splat the three designated boulders below the bridge. Bonus points are awarded for impressing the judges with cartwheeling, bow/stern stalling, or other playful maneuvers in between boulders. This event is really about creativity and having fun.

To enter, competitors must bring a pie of their choice. The winner will get to splat a cream pie in the face of a competitor of their choosing. All participants must agree to receive the splat happily. Afterward, spectators and competitors alike may enjoy a potluck-style pie feast on the bridge.

According to Paddlefest, pies can be obtained in Buena Vista from Sorelle Delicatessen, City Market, LaGree’s, or Loback’s Bakery. The event is free, but contributions to the completion of the Pocket Wave are welcome. Proceeds go to the River Park GoFundMe to assist in the rebuild. More information about donations is available here.

Awards Ceremony

5:30 p.m. Sunday, May 28

Winners will be announced and prizes will be awarded to participating athletes at the Ramsour Bridge, located at the bottom of the Buena Vista River Park.

Race to the Grill

11:00 a.m. Monday, May 29

This race through the Milk Run is open to any craft beginning at Wilderness Aware Rafting and ending at the River Runners Bar and Grill. The cost is $15 per racer. Participants need to be comfortable in Class 2 + whitewater and have the appropriate gear. Boats must be dropped off out of the way of vehicular traffic at the top of the boat ramp at Wilderness Aware prior to registration at River Runners. Tacos and cold drinks will be available at the grill.

Registration information for all these events is available on the Paddlefest website here.