For many people, Feather Fest is all about the competition; it’s a time to send it and win races. For others, it’s all about the party, a place to let loose and drink cheap cheap Sierra Nevada. For inexplicable reasons, some people are there with their families and small children to do…? Not sure. For me, Feather Fest is one last opportunity to see my whitewater friends before winter starts and we all go our separate ways.
For those of you who have never been, the festival starts off next to the North Fork of the Feather River near Tobin, California on Friday night with a film festival featuring a river themed environmental film. Saturday is filled with kayak races, clinics, and rafting. Saturday night is when the party really begins. Raffle prizes are awarded, silent auction winners are announced, race winners are announced, and merriment ensues. For the past couple of years, we’ve even been blessed by a spaceship themed art car to provide the dance floor with a unique ambience.
As Sunday morning rolls around, festival goers can pry themselves out of bed (various tents, cars, camper shells, and plots of dirt) to make their way over to the coffee. Sunday is also filled with a collection of boaters, in various stages of their hangovers, grudgingly dragging themselves into boats.
This year, I unfortunately had to work on Friday and Saturday until 7, so I decided to rally up that night after work. As I was driving through the dark and lonely Feather River Canyon, I started to have doubts that I knew where I was going… Did I pass the event? Eventually, I rolled around a corner and saw what looked like hundreds of cars with kayaks on top. I knew I was in the right place. I pulled my subaru into the closest, flattest spot I could find, and pulled out my bottle of champagne. As I showed up to the party, they were just announcing the last race winners. I found my crew right as the DJ was starting to play, and we drank champagne and danced to funk music until I don’t know when. At one point, I climbed to the top level of the spaceship art car, looked down on the crowd, and decided it was time to go to bed.
Sunday morning was honestly my favorite part of my whole experience. I woke up pretty early and remembered that all my friends were parked on the exact opposite side of the campground, about a half mile away. As I walked through the campground, I felt like I got to witness everybody in their most raw state. I passed lots of pairs of little feet (some with only one sock on…) poking out of the side doors of cars and out of camper shells. I passed some folks who clearly didn’t make it to their bed, but decided that a friend’s sleeping pad looked like a good place to plop down for the night. I made contact with lots of sleepy looking eyes, topped with messy, dreadlocked bedhead hair. I passed a family steering their toddler around someone snoring in their sleeping bag, half on the road. Watching the crowded campground of dirtbags, boaters, families, and whoever else was a comical experience. However, when I reached my friends they didn’t seem to be faring any better.
Eventually we were able to rally the troops and go rafting! We had a lovely day on the water; most of us remarked how fun it was to go rafting with friends rather than paying clients. After our final Lobin lap, we all parted ways. As I was driving out of the canyon, I started to feel nostalgic about my summer river adventures and my river friends. There’s something about sleeping in your car, wearing dirty clothes, and finding goodies you left yourself in the pocket of your PFD that takes you back to long July days filled with whitewater, difficult guests, friends, and fun. After not having been on the water in about a month, Feather Fest was all I needed to remind myself how much I love boating, but I’ll be honest: now I’m kinda ready to go skiing.
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Footy from Feather Fest 2015:
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