After many years of photographing and occasionally participating in FIBArk, local photographer Tim Brown was recently named this year’s FIBArk commodore.
Brown said the honor is something he had hoped to achieve some day, having been associated with the documentation of the event for almost 40 years.
Brown, a New England native, first came out to Colorado in 1980 and began working for River Runners taking photos of rafters through Browns Canyon.
Soon he established his own company photographing rafters for several different rafting companies.
Since that first exposure to the river, Brown learned to kayak and has used his boating and photography skills all over the world.
The Arkansas is special to him, though. “It’s my home town river,” he said, noting the variety in the local sections including The Numbers, Browns Canyon and Royal Gorge sections.
FIBArk was already well-established when Brown came to the area and in his younger days he participated in the slalom and Hooligan Race.
The event has evolved over the years as has Salida.
When Brown first came to live here he said what he loved about the town was how quiet it was. “About half the town was boarded up. It was very different. Very western. It was a cool little town.”
In the 1980s, he said, the town was about 95 percent locals and a handful of artists and outdoors people.
There have been improvements since then, especially in terms of the river.
When he first came, the river downtown was “dirty and rocky with no paths” The establishment of the whitewater park with walking paths has changed access and use in the downtown area.
FIBArk has changed too, from a small mostly local event to a multi-day event with participants and onlookers.
Brown said, “Back then it was so small. Every year you went you saw boater friends from all over.”
The one thing Brown remembers from the early days that was discontinued, which he would bring back if he could, was the Laura Evans bed races in which teams would race beds on wheels down F Street, referencing the legacy of Salida’s most famous madam.
Brown continues to keep an oar in when it comes to the river. He recently helped with the Pole Paddle Pedal event and his two children, Hazel and Flynn are both kayakers.
He said he is excited to get his official commodore hat. The office is mainly symbolic these days, a change from when the commodore was in charge of planning the weekend, but he is looking forward to handing out awards and pouring the first beer of the fesitival.
He said he still expects it will be a different kind of FIBArk due to COVID-19 precautions.
“I love the parade. There might not be a parade this year,” he said, “but past commodores get to ride in the parade too, so maybe next year.”