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Carey Hallett has been chose the 2023 FIBArk Commodore. Photo credit courtesy of Dakota Revack.

FIBArk Whitewater Festival announced on Tuesday that Carey Hallett has been named the 75th diamond anniversary Commodore.

Each year FIBArk honors an individual, the Commodore, who has made invaluable contributions to the festival. As a third-generation Salidan, Hallett has been involved in the Festival for more than 30 years. This year’s FIBArk takes place June 15-18, 2023 at Riverside Park in Salida.

“It is an honor to be Commodore’d in the Festival’s 75th year,” says Hallett. “This event is in my blood. I grew up splashing in the river and cheering on paddlers, working the music stage, and manning the sound panel. I am profoundly grateful to be joining a distinguished list of Commodores who have given so much to our town’s signature event.”

While most think of the annual festival as a signature whitewater event that brings tourism to the city, it is actually a fundraising event to support youth paddling programs. Those programs cultivate local youth participation in whitewater sports and a lifelong understanding of river stewardship.

Commodores are more than figureheads. They are the literal master of ceremonies for the event. They donate money every year to a gear scholarship fund through FIBArk’s paddle program. Through the scholarship fund, one eager and motivated student is chosen to be set up for the river: receiving a boat, paddle, spray skirt, helmet, and life jacket.

Hallett’s involvement with FIBArk has been lifelong. As a day laborer and performer with one of his many bands on the FIBArk stage, Hallett made a commitment to stay involved in the festival and organization.

“Carey is the calm in the storm that is the FIBArk Whitewater Festival. I can’t think of a kinder, more deserving, and bigger heart in the FIBArk world to hold the title of the Diamond Anniversary Commodore. Carey is FIBArk,” Lindsay Sutton-Stephens, President, FIBArk Board of Directors.

He served on the FIBArk Board of Directors, taking on the role of Entertainment Director for many years. Since then, he has been the hired director of sound for the festival for decades. He has supported more than 300 bands on the FIBArk stage.

Hallett continues to be a vital part of the Salida music scene, running sound and now playing with his current band, The Instigators. Raising his three children in the Arkansas Valley, he comes from a long line of artists and whitewater enthusiasts.

The FIBArk’s 75th-anniversary kickoff party for locals is at High Side Bar & Grill from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, June 14. Before the river festival begins, this is the community’s “drawing of our breaths” before we greet the thousands who have come to celebrate the river with us. The evening is a chance to meet Commodore Carey Hallett, bid on the original FIBArk poster artwork by Leslie Jorgensen and other auction items from local businesses.