Towns that were established in the 19th century can’t avoid a certain amount of history and culture, and the City of Delta is no exception. Established in 1882, the city’s website has a page dedicated to just that, telling the story of Fort Uncompahgre, the Egyptian Theatre and the old ML&P plant.
Among those larger points of the city’s history, however, there are certain details and traditions that have been lost somewhere along the way. That includes the Crazy Raft Race, which started in about 1980 and ran until 2000. For the last 20 years, the event that had grown each year and became a downright town festival hasn’t happened.
With a big push from the City of Delta, Western Slope SUP in Hotchkiss and others, the event with will return on June 27, ending the two decade hiatus.
“The plan is to have different kinds of races and paddleboard jousting,” Delta Marketing Coordinator Darin Hamm said. “Unfortunately, the race isn’t going to be the same length as it was before just because of restrictions on the river and changes in the last 20 years.”
Hamm said the main raft race would not be nearly as long as it once was, but that the festivities throughout the day and the events related to the Crazy Raft Race will be reminiscent of the way things were during the '80s and '90s.
Dan Roman of Western Slope SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboards), helping manage the races and supervise paddleboard jousting in Confluence Park.
“It has been something that I’ve wanted to resurrect for a couple years,” Roman said, “and I brought that up to some of the right people and now it’s happening. Now the City of Delta’s putting it on and I’m pretty stoked about that.”
According to Roman, he and Hamm are working closely to ensure that the event goes according to plan.
Hamm recalled the story of how the Crazy Raft Race began in the first place, telling of a group of friends and their private event that grew into something bigger.
In the beginning, the event wasn’t run by the city. It had nothing to do with the city council nor any city staff.
“Mainly, some guys were just sitting around, actually at the Sundance Inn,” Hamm said. “They were sitting around and they were just like ‘Hey, let’s try to do this,’ then it kind of just started with a bunch of friends who got together and they had this [event].”
Hamm said the group called themselves the Gunnison River Yacht Club.
“They were just a group of friends who wanted to have a good time and so they started it in probably their twenties, if you think about it,” Hamm said. “They got into their 40s and had families and kids and whatnot, and it kind of lost steam because of that. They had a lot of other things going on with their lives.”
“It definitely was not run by the city,” Hamm said.
Somewhere along the way during the Crazy Raft Race’s run in Delta’s history, the event accumulated enough interest for there to be a parade and a general all-day festival at Confluence Park. Those traditions will be returning with the rebooted version this summer, Roman said.
The topic of the Crazy Raft Race stirred excitement at the Feb. 4 Delta City Council meeting as well, with Councilman Nathan Clay stating immediately, “I can’t wait.”
“We have over 7,000 people who have responded to that on social media,” said Wilma Erven, interim city manager and parks and recreation director. “It may really, really be a busy weekend.”
In the meantime, as winter fades out for the season and the weather grows warmer, the City of Delta will continue to prepare to resurrect summer fun tradition of the Crazy Raft Race.