Fun at the Esopus Whitewater Funfest!

KCCNY started the Esopus Whitewater Funfest four years ago to enhance and expand the traditional Esopus Slalom race held the first weekend in June every year for the past 47 years. It’s a club tradition and driver for the June whitewater release on the Esopus River in Phoenicia NY (Catskills). This year it is June 1-2.
KCCNY added many new whitewater activities to slalom race in order to attract a wider variety of boating interests and added a group dinner and camping for the weekend- all at a very reasonable cost. Our goal is to bring KCCNY club members and the whitewater boating community together in a single fun event for all. We still have the slalom race too for those who are traditionalists about the Esopus Slalom race. The Funfest is designed as an activity to bring all of us together in a social event. It’s the only KCCNY major on-river event for the whole boating season. We have lots of river runs all summer long, but only one Funfest.
What do we have?
On Saturday, we have a full day of events and you can join nearly all of them (some overlap) or pick and choose from them.
The day starts with the downriver sprint race starting above the race course and ending at the bottom of the slalom course. It’s a timed event with the goal to finish as fast as possible. There are classes for different types of boats so you don’t have to be serious racer with a long boat to give this event a try. I’ve tried it and it’s exhausting. I’m definitely not used to paddling very fast as speed is not usually my goal.
Concurrent with the sprint race is the river-run. This is for the mellow and non-competitive boaters who enjoy floating down at a leisurely pace, surfing and enjoying the scenery along the way. The river-runners start upstream at the cemetery and paddle a 5 mile stretch of river down to the campground. The river is Class 2 suitable for experienced novices who have run Class 2 rivers before. The river-run is led by ACA certified Whitewater instructors (Jack Moskowitz and others) and informal instruction is available along the way. The river-run repeats on Sunday.
Mid-day on Saturday there is a freestyle event. This event started last year and was run as a down-the-river style event, where boaters did as many moves as possible on a section of the race course. Each move scores points, and difficult moves score higher. Even simple moves like front surfs, side-surfs and flat spins score points. Getting the boat on end scores higher points. It’s fun and friendly and not very serious. This year’s location and style of event will depend on water levels and features available. The river changes course every year, sometimes dramatically so you never know what to expect.
The last on-water event on Saturday is the boater-cross. The boater-cross is a mass start race on a short course through the slalom course, with the first boater to cross the finish line declared the winner. Again, there are different classes for different style of boats, and sometimes a bit of carnage along the way as boats jockey for position. Last year, the men’s and women’s and events were highly competitive.
By now, everyone is exhausted but the day is not over yet. After a brief rest, we gather for dinner in the town of Phoenicia to enjoy Linda McLuckie’s delicious dinner followed by her even more yummy home-made desserts. Make sure you save room for those. Dinner is BYOB. It’s relaxed and informal. If you are camping, you can head back the Sleepy Hollow campground down the road to continue the camaraderie. Get a good night’s sleep because you have another busy day on Sunday! Note that friends and family are welcome for dinner and camping and can sign-up for a dinner only option. So bring them along. The more the merrier!
Sunday starts bright and early with the slalom race. It’s an all-day event for the racers. When they are not actually on the course, they serve as judges to spot each gate for touches and misses. It is common for the boaters to enter more than one race class and each class has two runs with the best score being counted for that class. Some folks take this really seriously and are highly competitive, and others are there for the challenge and experience and there are boater classes for each.
For the mellow folks, there is another river-run on Sunday. The river-run will stop at the race course for lunch and cheer the racers on. Since the river-run goes through the race course, it is possible to try the course, or at least a few gates on the way down. It’s harder than it looks to make it through every gate- there are about 20 of them and some of them you have to through them going upstream.
Now that everyone is completely exhausted, everyone pitches in to take down the race course as quickly as possible so that we can get the race results, announce and cheer the winners, and give out door prizes. Our sponsors have donated a variety of boating related prizes. There are also special awards given for boaters who compete in three or more events including the slalom. These are called the RiverMeister awards. It seems that the majority of winners are the teenagers who have the stamina to compete in multiple events. Some of us old folks aren’t up to the challenge.
As always, putting together this event is a team effort and volunteer help is greatly appreciated. It is especially helpful to come up on Friday and help set up the race course. Volunteers who help on Friday will be given free admission to the Funest. John Coraor works really hard at this and can use all the help he can get. Contact him directly at jcoraor@optonline.net to volunteer. If you can’t make it on Friday, volunteers are also needed on Saturday and Sunday to run the activities and help clean up the dinner. (no free admission for those) Even a few minutes, or one event is greatly appreciated.
We hope that many club members, local boaters and friends and family come out and join the fun.
Check out my gallery of a few pictures from last year’s Funfest!
To sign up, go to to http://www.kccny.com/0/Racing/Racing.aspx for more information and registration forms. There is an early bird discount for registrations received before May 25th. On-site registration is available, but we cannot guarantee that you can sign up for dinner as we order food in advance.
See you there! Sign up early and save $10.

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