by Guinne Stropes

Mail Staff Writer

The 71st annual FIBArk Whitewater Festival will kick off with live music and food at 5 p.m. today at Salida SteamPlant, 220 W. Sackett Ave.

The kickoff is a special FIBArk edition of Heart of the Rockies Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours. Admission costs $10.

Food from the grill will be available from 5-7 p.m., and local band Mo’Champipple and the Miso Horns will play from 7-8:30 p.m.

The festival, held every year on Father’s Day weekend, is America’s “oldest and boldest” whitewater boating festival.

This year’s FIBArk commodore, Joel McBride, said his favorite event is the downriver race.

The race changed its route this year, and McBride said he supports the change.

“It’s more manageable and it finishes in town,” he said.

Another slight change from past years is staffing of the Salida Police Department.

Police Chief Russ Johnson said this year the department is fully staffed, while in the past it has been short two to four officers.

Being fully staffed means more officers can be on bicycles and on foot patrolling crowds in the downtown area.

“We just want to keep the community safe this weekend and help control some parking issues,” Johnson said.

Similar to last year, Johnson said, SPD has joined forces with the Colorado Department of Transportation for a Heat Is On campaign to prevent inebriated driving.

“We have a specific way we’ve been doing it for so many years. Basically we have a group of officers dedicated to the highway, a group dedicated to taking calls and a group dedicated to patrolling the downtown festivities,” Johnson said.

Another tradition is the FIBArk Parade, which McBride said he is looking forward to.

While his favorite event is the downriver race, he said he “loves a good parade.”

McBride said if he could create a theme for FIBArk this year it would be “gratitude.”

“I am grateful for the people in the community at this year’s FIBArk,” he said.

More information about FIBArk and its events can be found at fibark.com.

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