Dirt Bag Paddlers love us some whitewater festivals. We love us some West By God (West Virginia for the poor uninitiated…), and we especially love us some free flowing Cheat River. The longest undammed river in the East, it flows like a powerful beast each Spring. And when it’s running, the good dirtbags of the region get together for one helluva fun festival – CHEAT FEST.
The Festival, hosted by Friends of the Cheat, happens every year on the first weekend of May. DBP set up a booth this year in order for us to get together with our friends, paddle and party, and meet the community. We asked some of our friends to share with the readers of DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE some memories from what turned out to be yet another awesome weekend. Maybe we will see you there next year?
By F.Wes Breitenbach, DBP Admin and Co-Editor of DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE
So I found myself getting back to the DBP booth when? Yes, late. I got off the river and made my way back to the spot that was assigned to us. I had taken the time to set everything up in advance so with prep work done I was able to start slinging swag. A much better spot from the one we had last year I was told. I was amazed by the traffic we had. So many people coming by, wave after wave of groups and individuals sauntering by. Some knew us but many were learning who we were for the first time.
Within a few minutes I realized what was going on. We were set up in front of the wall-o-pottys! 40 or so porta-johns lurking right behind the booth. That is how everyone got to know us. When someone asked “where are the bathrooms?” the reply was: “see that globe with dbp? It is right behind that.” And so it was. DBP became the beacon for all who needed to return their beer rental. Which when you think about it was, in some cosmic way, appropriate. We are, after all, a bunch of dirtbags.
With the crowd constantly flowing past we were able to spread the word to many who may not have found us. We made new friends, visited with old, and had many reasons to smile! The music was good and the event was way bigger than I had expected. I do want to thank those of you who stopped by to say hi and especially the ones who left with fresh gear. You are the ones who support this community we call Dirt Bag Paddlers. Without you we wouldn’t be able to keep this thing going.
Brothers and sisters, I THANK YOU!!
By GNARLee Turner of THE GNAR FAIRIES
As you pull up to the campsite, you can’t help but smile just a little as you see four fields worth of our dirtbag brethren all gathered next to the river that has called each and every one of our names. We come together this beautiful weekend in May to pay homage to such a wild area of West Virginian whitewater through paddling, amity, art, and music.
The day we got on the water a rich blue stretched across the sky broken up by beautiful plump clouds. It was as if the river gods were blessing our time on the whitewater we were about to descend. As we paddled, we had the privilege to see such unique rapids and rock formations that give the Cheat its funny character. For all of our group it was a clean run with fun at every surf and boof we could find. By the time we made our way to the takeout, we found an audience of WVU college students all watching these crazy bunch of exhausted boaters finishing this 12 mile stretch.
By the time we got back to the campsite, it was time to get ready for the festival. Like the water, the Cheat Fest music seemed to feed our soul as we joined in with the rest our kind. Even each of the artists that set up there offered a special perspective into the natural world using their various mediums and pieces. In the end, the most fantastic part about the festival was how the camaraderie and stories we shared breathed a kind of joyous life into the celebration that could only be found in a community like ours. For our team, the Gnar Fairies, this was an amazing time for which we hope to return.
By Kirsten Ringler, BCC lifetime member and DBP Admin
A couple members of the Benscreek Canoe Club of Johnstown, PA took to Cheat Fest again this year. Although none of us got on the river to paddle, we took a great hike down to Big Nasty in hopes to see some carnage. We couldn’t have asked for better weather (I ended up with a lovely sunburn), the food vendors were great as usual and we were more than well stocked on beer. You can’t beat the bands that perform all day at the festival grounds, which provides for a great atmosphere. The gear vendors were on point this year and we did a really good job at clearing house on some deals we couldn’t pass up. I finally got to meet some of the Dirtbags I’ve been talking to and can honestly say they are an awesome group of people with great ideas when it comes to the whitewater community. Working with them has been a great experience and getting to meet a few of the people that have been instrumental in promoting the Stonycreek Rendezvous really helped tie everything together! I look forward to meeting more Dirtbags and working with them more in the future.
By Kelly Gladen, Team Gung Ho Pirates and DBP Admin.
This was my second time out at Cheat Fest in Albright, WV. If you’ve never been out on the Cheat River you sure are missing a beautiful stretch of free flowing whitewater which only runs from March to June depending on how much rain and snow fall they get in the winter. Usually held on the first weekend of May, Cheat Fest is Friends of the Cheat’s annual fundraiser which helps us advance our watershed projects and supports the organization’s administrative costs.
I made my journey on Friday in the afternoon with a fellow coworker. He needed a ride since his car was not suitable to head out on the three hour ride from the New River, WV area. We got there way before our dirtbag friends Wes and Michelle, so we got our stuff settled and checked out what was already up and going. What is great about the fest grounds is you are right on the Friends of The Cheat put-in for the river. You have a beautiful stream that also comes in that is really nice to walk down and take in the view.
By the time we got there folks were busy with their camp sites and gear readying for the next day on the river. The Cheat Downstream race had just finished up. Its a kayak race that started around 5pm. Around 11:30 pm I got to meet with Wes who had just got in with the canopy and gear for our set up. We spoke for a few then headed off to bed since I was getting up early to run the Cheat Fest 5k about 5 or so minutes from the grounds.
I woke up after a chilly night in my car (I always dirt bag it up), getting with Wes and Michelle before heading off to my run. We were figuring what we were running for the day. Michelle was very excited because she had just got her Liquid Logic kayak. They went off and worked on her skills down on the Cheat Narrows. Once I got back from my race, we ran the Cheat, Wes and Ryan and the others in one boat while I was R2ing with my friend. The weather really turned out to be in our favor for the whole weekend especially on the river. The river was very crowded with kayaks and rafts, reminding me of running on the Gauley on festival Saturday. We surfed when we could since there was many lines to run some of the really bad ass surf holes. We stopped at Q Ball Rapid and watched the kayakers and rafts get into some sweet surf action. We also got to see some of the random locals at the end of the day jumping off the bridge and having a huge party on the rock cliffs as we got to the take out. Take out was packed. We all dirtbagged it back to the fest grounds, I got to ride on the kayaks in some random van out – and the take out of the cheat is not the best, it’s a steep hill with major bumps. Also watching the ATV’s come zipping by…it’s crazy that there was no one slipping off the side of the mountain.
Once we got back we worked the DBP booth. Wes had donations for the Project 444 and we also promoting the Stonycreek Rendezvous held May 15th in Johnstown, PA. The fest itself is amazing. From the music thumping all the way to the other camp sites, to the long lines for some awesome food, and many other venders including a kids area. We donated to the silent auction as well for the Friends of the Cheat. I got to meet many dirtbags who definitely loved the great swag, especially the womens Wallace Makes Me Wet shirt and also boy shorts. Wes even got a guy who was single to buy one to try to give to his possible next girlfriend. The night continued to around 11:30 when everything started to end. They played Country Roads to end the night.
The weekend was amazing…. The atmosphere the love for a river…. Never will forget. So come and check this out next year….. you wont be disappointed.
Some photos from Kelly and Michelle
Cheat Fest Results.
By Charlie Walbridge, Friends of the Cheat and famous whitewater author and river rescue guru.
The 2015 Cheat Fest was the most successful in history as glorious weather motivated people to travel to Preston County, WV. We had 3500 paid admissions, a record. People come for the great music and food and the wonderful low-key down home vibe. But there’s a serious purpose behind it!. This year’s Festival raised over $60,000 for Friends of the Cheat. Each $1.00 raised, either by membership fees or at the festival, allows us to apply for and win almost $6.00 in funding for river cleanup projects, water quality monitoring, and river access. Over the past 21 years this work has brought the river back to life.
WELL THERE YOU HAVE IT! Good Times, Good Food, Good Friends, Good Cause, Good Music, Good Art, Good Boating, Good Races, GREAT RIVER! THE BEST COMMUNITY! See you next year!!
Cheat River Festival
Friends of The Cheat
Benscreek Canoe Club
www.gofundme.com › project444
Team Gung Ho Pirates-DBP Kelly’s footy
Fest footy from Dale Briggs