Seats on the 16th annual Western Colorado Conservation Center's float trip down the North Fork of the Gunnison River are sold out, but there's room for all at the post-float trip party at Paonia River Park.
WSCC executive director Alex Johnson was granted approval by Paonia trustees on May 10 to hold the party. This is the first year for the celebration, which will feature vendors, live music and educational opportunities, but no alcohol. The board also approved overnight camping for boat captains and WSCC staff to provide security for boats and equipment.
The event required board action since the party will be held on property co-owned by the town. The float trip will draw about 100 floaters and 20-30 vessels, said Johnson, and the festival will allow those unable to make the float trip to join in the celebration.
The park is finally "complete to the point where we can host a festival," said Johnson. "It's a real opportunity to celebrate that achievement."
The float trip runs from 8 a.m. to noon, and the festival runs from noon to 4 p.m. In the afternoon, there will be a ribbon cutting for the new ADA-compliant ramp down to the river. This year's event brings a bit of "Hawaii" to the North Fork, so come down to a "tropical paradise."
There will be live music from local bands Mojo and Something Blue, outdoor games and a big silent auction.
Local nonprofits such as Colorado Canyons Association, Gunnison Gorge Anglers and River Restoration Adventures for Tomorrow will be on hand to talk about their river conservation work. Additionally, local vendors such as the Learning Council and Mad Wrappers Food Truck will have food and goodies.
The seventh annual Eckert Crane Days, the annual viewing of the sandhill cranes migrating north from New Mexico through Colorado's West Slope, will be March 16-18. Representatives from the Black Canyon Chapter of the Audubon Society (BCAS) will be at the viewing site east of Eckert at Fruitgrowers Reservoir, 9 to 11 a.m. each day, to answer questions and provide binoculars and spotting scopes.