Held each year at the end of July and start of August in friendly Fort Smith, Paddlefest is the North's premier celebration of boats, rivers and fun. This year's event takes place from Tuesday, July 26 to Monday, August 1, when scores of locals and dozens of visitors will descend on the Slave River. There, they'll enjoy team races in traditional voyageur canoes, tours of the white-pelican nesting area, entry-level instruction on whitewater paddling, games that range from goofy paddleboard jousting to Olympic-style slalom kayaking – and the list goes on. Here's just a glimpse of what Paddlefest offers:
You don't have to be an oldster to have a thrilling time at Paddlefest. Youth-sized boats are available to rent or borrow, and young folks will enjoy instructional sessions in safe, flaterwater portions of the river. There are also paddling contests for kids, and all sorts of fun on shore (scroll down for weiner roast info!).
This is the famous beachball race. You win by batting your team's ball downstream past the line ... or by batting the opponents' beachballs upstream. Who will win? Who knows. But you can be certain that hilarity will ensue. Other games on the Paddlefest schedule? The "International Pool Toy Race," swimming competitions, "boatercross" and more.
The Slave River is legendary for its waves. Some of them are placid little rollers like the one pictured above, perfect for having a fun and foamy time on a hot summer day. Other of the waves are the size of a two storey house. Paddling into them is like taking a ride in a washing machine. Don't worry, it's easy to steer clear of them.
Even if you've never been in a canoe or kayak before, Paddlefest can get you up to speed. A wealth of instructional sessions take place throughout the weekend. You'll develop comfort and learn techniques – and, if you want to, maybe even ride a few waves
Don't feel prepared to go solo on the Slave's big waves? Let an expert kayaker usher you through the rapids. When you go for a tandem-boat tour, all you have to do is hang on and grin ....
Each year, the local Smith's Landing First Nation sponsors the popular voyageur canoe race. The event is a nod to the traditional vessels of the region – massive skin boats that carried people, food and supplies along the watery highways of the North.
Hotdogs over a campfire. Pancake breakfasts. The always-exciting awards dinner. Paddlefest will keep your belly full.
Every year, Paddlefest draws a number of professional-grade paddlers from around the world, who show off their skills by performing tricks with ridiculous names – Space Godzillas, AirScrews, McNasties and more. It's a marvel to behold their acrobatics and cheer for them in the surf competitions.
Need we say more?