Schedule released for Paddlefest 

Three-day festival celebrates paddle sports

If it floats,

Kayaks, canoes, voyageur canoes, war canoes, dragon boats – if it floats, you’ll find it at Paddlefest 2002, a new Whistler festival to celebrate spring and the return to hand-propelled water sports.

Running from June 7 to 9, the festival offers something for everyone.

There is the retail component, with sponsors and merchants setting up tents to display and sell their gear.

There is the educational component, with special tours and demonstrations.

There is an advocacy component, where people will discuss important issues affecting the industry, such as the recent trend towards run-of-river hydro projects.

Then there are the social and cultural events, such as First Nations salmon barbecues with dancers and storytellers, and a fun trip down the Cheakamus River.

All ages and abilities are welcome to take part in the festivities, and there are as many events tailored for beginners as there are for hardcore paddlers.

"There are a lot of free clinics and things, like a water safety course for kids and a one hour introduction to paddling where everyone will be shown the basics and then given a chance to try it for themselves," says Grant Lamont of Epic Events, one of Paddlefest’s main organizers. Paddler Magazine, Captain Holiday’s Kayak and Adventure School, the Whistler Kayak Club, and the Edgewater Outdoor Centre are also part of Paddlefest. Local First Nations from Mount Currie and D’Arcy are also getting involved, as is Tourism Whistler.

"We’re looking to get more people involved in water sports. The whole self-propelled segment is so big right now just by word of mouth it makes sense to concentrate our efforts on it, put this area on the map. This is a great place to canoe and kayak, as good as anywhere else you might go," Lamont says.

The organizers have already received a lot of feedback for the event from kayakers and exhibitors, mostly through the festival’s connection to Paddler Magazine. Paddling clubs are also well connected and the buzz is spreading through word of mouth.

"We’re getting a lot of response already, which is not bad for a new event with a very limited advertising budget," says Lamont.

He is expecting between 500 and 1,000 visitors over the course of the festival, including locals and paddlers from the Lower Mainland and Washington.

Don Butler, the owner and operator of Captain Holiday’s, is not expecting too much in the first year but sees Paddlefest taking off and becoming a large event.

"It’s good for Whistler and it’s good for the paddling community," says Butler.

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