Get yer fix of paddling fun this weekend at Salida’s New Belgium FIBArk Whitewater Festival. With live music, tasty brews, and, of course, whitewater events, it’s the go-to river festival of the year. Boaters have competed in FIBArk (which stands for First in Boating the Arkansas) since 1949, which has morphed from a three-day event to almost a full week of escapades fit for river rats, family folks, and everyone who’s both or in between.

Panorak.com recently caught up with FIBArk President Samantha Lane, who gave us the inside skinny on the oldest whitewater festival in America.

Samantha Lane, FIBArk President

Samantha Lane, FIBArk President, has been attending the festival for almost a decade. Photo by Sarah Hammond.

Is there anything about this year’s FIBArk new or different from other years?

This year, we have two main changes. First, we are having 3 new SUPing events: Cross, Downriver, and Freestyle. The sport has taken off and we really want to reach those athletes that participate in this great sport. Second, we are having music all day Sunday in Riverside Park, for free, to honor Father’s Day and give families a chance to get out and enjoy a lovely park day.

How do the Flows this year compare to other years?

The CFS is always high in town around FIBArk weekend. This year, it is higher than in recent years, but nothing that the Arkansas hasn’t seen before. The only competition that may be altered is the Hooligan Race, as we don’t want any giant Hooligan crafts trying to navigate under the F Street Bridge. We will wait to make that call until the last minute.

What does being President of FIBArk entail?

The FIBArk Board of Directors is a group of 11 volunteers. I am the President, but every board member works very hard and plays an equal role in executing the festival. We meet monthly in the off-season, and weekly in the 3 months leading up to the festival. We each tackle a different part of the festival – music, beer sales, river events, running events, etc. – and run that part. There are also many volunteers from the community who come out of the woodwork to help us out every year. As President, my main responsibilities are to lead the group, help make decisions that protect the By Laws of FIBArk Boat Races, Inc., and to sign contracts : )

What’s your paddling pleasure?

I have also worked as a river guide in the Arkansas Valley since 2003. My current favorite river sport is stand-up-paddle boarding! I love it and I do yoga on my SUP. I also really enjoy rowing and multi-day river trips. I love kayaking too but as I get older, I am less into gnarly boating.

Is there one particular event in FIBArk that distinguishes it from other outdoor competitions/festivals?

The Hooligan Race is our famous, (infamous?) event that sets FIBArk apart on the river. It draws the biggest crowd to the festival, and it’s just hilarious! If you’ve never witnessed the Hooligan Race, you should check it out this year. Also, offering FREE live, outdoor music all weekend is spectacular! We work really hard to raise enough money and sell enough beer to keep the music free.

What’s the theme of this year’s parade?

The theme this year is “Watchin’ Wild Water” and I think it’s especially relevant due to the high water this week.

What’s your favorite FIBArk memory?

My favorite FIBArk memory is watching the Hooligan Race from the back of the FIBArk boathouse with my family, friends, and the other FIBArk board members. There is a special, electric energy at that event, and since it’s on Saturday night, the festival is almost over, I can finally drink a beer, look around, and take it all in….the feeling is fun, excitement, and a feeling of satisfaction.

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