Salida Mayor P.T. Wood recalled the first time he announced FIBArk, in 1991.

It was raining, he said, and he was holding a microphone and it started shocking him, so he had to yell into the microphone for someone to shut the system off. Somehow, he said, he managed to not swear.

No one got electrocuted, but the mood was electric Wednesday at the kickoff to the 71st FIBArk Whitewater Festival at Salida SteamPlant – a special FIBArk edition of Business After Hours.

FIBArk runs from today through Sunday and includes boating, biking and running races, live music, a carnival and all sorts of other events.

“It’s going to be rip-roaring,” former Chaffee County Commissioner Dave Potts said.

Wood said he was incredibly excited about this weekend but a little bummed about the Hooligan Race being canceled because of high water. This would have been his 29th year announcing the race, so now he’ll have to find some other way to announce something.

“It’s a great afternoon,” Wood said about Wednesday’s gathering. “Great way to kick off FIBArk.

Former Commodore Shawn Gillis said FIBArk is his favorite event of the year because it gets just about everybody out and checking out something.

“There are so many hard workers who have made FIBArk continue over the years, and they’re all out here tonight,” Gillis said.

Joel McBride was introduced as the 2019 FIBArk commodore. He said he remembered when FIBArk included bed races down F Street and air band competitions.

“It’s cutting into my boating time,” McBride said about being commodore.

We live in a beautiful valley, McBride said, but what makes it truly special is the people.

Much of the conversation related to this year’s high water.

Wood recalled sandbagging Boathouse Cantina in 1995. McBride said he couldn’t decide whether to enter this year’s intermediate or advanced downriver race because he was worried about a couple of big rapids, Seidel’s Suckhole and Twin Falls, between Hecla Junction and Stone Bridge.

McBride said this year’s downriver race will be a lot different from the usual route from Salida to Cotopaxi.

Chuck Deveney said the high water is really fun right now, as long as boaters remember to respect what the river can do.

The event was hosted by the SteamPlant and the city of Salida, with volunteers from the Heart of the Rockies Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

“This is one of those events you just expect to happen, like the Parade of Lights,” Michael Varnum, chamber board president and SteamPlant director, said.

He said the kickoff was going great and got a good turnout.

“It’s a great party,” Varnum said.

A work of art by local artist Claire Deveney was auctioned off to benefit FIBArk. It sold to Bob Nicolls for $850.

McBride, whose first FIBArk was in 1987, encouraged newcomers to check out the river races, because that’s how FIBArk got its start.

When asked if he had any advice for someone experiencing FIBArk for the first time, McBride said, “Moderate your alcohol, go easy, be kind, enjoy yourself.”

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