Story and Photos by Ty O’Neil
Reno River Festival took on a new look this year with the Truckee River flowing fast and cold.
Few events cover as many elements as Reno River Festival, which blends fair, music fest, craft fair, beer and wine tasting, art show, community outreach, food truck fest, ziplining, bike run, and of course the main attraction, whitewater kayaking. No other Reno events juggle so many differing subjects so well.
Live music playing directly across from the kayaking allowed onlookers to partake in either or both by only moving a few feet. Diners and drinkers needed only to heft their purchase a short distance to find a grassy knoll upon which to rest. The Reno River Roll bike run added some great whimsy to the event as riders in outlandish costumes atop some equally outlandish bikes zipped around the downtown area.
Let us talk though about the main event, white water kayaking. The river was the subject of numerous conversations for nearly everyone at the event, from competitors to attendees. The latter remembered the previous year’s event when the Truckee was so low they could sit on the rocks just feet from the competitors.
The announcers did an admirable job explaining the complexities of both the river and the sport. The Truckee is usually a low-flow “bowl” allowing for lots of tricks, but with the current snow melt the Truckee couldn’t have been further from that.
The rapid current pulled riders out of the judging area and downriver quickly, called “getting flushed.” Staying in the judging section of the river for the required 60 seconds proved nearly impossible, even for the most experienced kayakers. Every kayaker I saw got flushed today.
Competitors paddled with all their strength up the Truckee to maintain their run, earning cheers from the crowd. They quite literally rowed up the Truckee River if only for a few feet, an athletic accomplishment in and of itself.
Despite the clear physical and emotional toll of the competition, kayakers treated the audience to some amazing runs filled with flips, corkscrews, and a plethora of moves with their own unique names, too numerus to keep track of.
The only negative comments I heard were from onlookers who usually play in the river during the event. Today they experienced a distinctly Reno River Festival. Signs warning people of the dangers of the river were posted on nearly every tree, not forbidding, but certainly discouraging event participants from jumping in. While perhaps not the most convenient for river enthusiasts, Reno River Festival 2017 certainly aimed to please.
For a schedule of day two events at the Reno River Festival visit http://www.renoriverfestival.com/event-schedule/
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Ty O’Neil is a lifelong student of anthropology with two degrees in the arts. He is far more at home in the tear gas filled streets of war torn countries than he is relaxing at home. He has found a place at This Is Reno as a photojournalist. He hopes to someday be a conflict photojournalist covering wars and natural disasters abroad.