New Yorkville fest highlights kayak facility
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media July 12, 2012 3:50PM
Illinois Whitewater Festival
♦ July 14
♦ Bicentennial Riverfront Park, 301 E. Hydraulic St., Yorkville
♦ (630) 882-9211
Updated: July 12, 2012 3:50PM
Experienced kayakers and novices alike can test the rapids at a new festival in Yorkville, home of some surprisingly good rapids.
The first Illinois Whitewater Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 14 at the Yorkville Outdoor Center in Bicentennial Park. It will run concurrent with the city’s first Ribs on the River event, said Laura Schraw, interim director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Yorkville.
“This is our inaugural event and we’re planning on continuing this every year, because we have this great kayaking facility,” she said.
Event sponsor Geneva Kayak Center calls Yorkville’s rapids class 1 and 2, she said.
The Marge Cline Whitewater Course on the Fox River is open year-round, she said. The 1,100 foot-long bypass chute allows canoes, kayaks and tubers to travel downstream safely around the Glen D. Palmer Dam without having to portage. “It’s a lot of fun for people,” she said.
That was the impetus for the festival, she said. They wanted to capitalize on this unique new facility.
“There’s not another facility like this is about a six-hour radius,” she said. “So we decided we needed to have a whitewater festival, and we named it the Illinois Whitewater Festival because we thought that would be a great way to draw people from the entire area and let them know it’s not just a Yorkville festival but it’s for anybody throughout the state, and neighboring states, too.”
The facility opened in May 2011 and was constructed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
“We wanted to make sure we got the word out and wanted to make sure anyone in the kayaking and canoeing industry come see it,” she said. “We also have the barbecue event the same day.”
Whitewater can be intimidating for newbies, especially when faced with much more experienced rafters, so this festival will be a nice introduction to kayaking or canoeing, she said.
There will be mini lessons at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. for people to sample kayaking, she said.
“It’s a good way for people to have fun in a day of competition,” she said.
Other events include a Cardboard Whitewater Boat Regatta at 11 a.m. Participants have to build a boat entirely out of cardboard and race it.
“We figure as long as they can make it past the first little eddy, they’re in good shape,” she said.
A “Boatercross” event for beginner through advanced whitewater kayakers with their own equipment is at 1:30 p.m., and a Citizen’s Rodeo will be at 3 p.m.
A Kayak biathlon (running while carrying your boat and then paddling down the course) is at 4 p.m., followed by a Mayor’s Cup Whitewater Rafting Challenge at 5 p.m.
Most of these events are free and open to the public. There will be on-land clinics, demonstrations, presentations and vendor booths throughout the day.
“They are trying to get people out there to have some fun and show off to the people at the barbecue how much fun it is,” she said. “It’s not really something you think of doing in Illinois.”
If you’re going, plan on getting wet and seeing some of the good aspects of whitewater sports, she said.
“You’ll get to see people do tricks and racing and different challenges,” she said. “There will also be the band and food and a great family atmosphere. It’s a way to get out and see this beautiful new facility and try some kayaking if they are interested.”