Summer unofficially kicks off Memorial Day weekend across western Montana, and one Bigfork festival has capitalized on that for more than four decades.
The mountain drainages that feed the Swan River are well over 100 percent of normal snow water equivalent, and kayakers and rafters are stoked — very excited in water sportsmen and women terms — about the whitewater the legendary “Wild Mile” will offer for the 2017 Bigfork Whitewater Festival.
Going 42 years strong, the festival, which takes place every Memorial Day weekend, is Bigfork’s longest running event. The weekend offers some of the most easily-accessible viewing of class III and IV whitewater kayak and raft action in the area. All within walking distance from downtown Bigfork, the Swan River Nature Trail runs the length of the “Wild Mile” where the races take place. The steel bridge and PacifiCorp Power park at the south end of town has a perfect view of the finish for all downriver races. Races this year include upper, lower and giant kayak slalom, downriver races for both kayaks and four-man raft teams, as well as the recently added rafting head-to-head.
New to this year’s event is the addition of a designated vendor area on Electric Avenue. This area will feature festival sponsor booths, merchandise from Montana businesses and kayak and raft related companies and information. This also will be the site of the registration tent and the Fun Beverage draft trailer, featuring beer from festival sponsors Flathead Lake Brewing Company and PBR.
This family-friendly weekend event is an informal kick off to summer in Bigfork. Though the village is “open” year round, shops and restaurants begin operating longer and more frequent hours during this weekend. Visitors are encouraged to peruse shops and galleries as they stroll down Electric Avenue while making their way to the different vantage points for the races.
The 42nd annual Bigfork Whitewater Festival, powered by local Toyota dealers, will be held May 27-28. For an official schedule of events and information go to bigforkwhitewaterfestival.com.
— Corridor Contributor