Auburn River Festival judged wet and wildly successful, could get bigger

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The inaugural Auburn River Festival made a big enough splash to have organizers already talking excitedly about next year. Guy Cables, an Auburn kayak rental business owner and member of the newly formed Access For All committee, said the festival attracted an estimated 1,000 people over the three days between Friday and Sunday. The festival likely broke even or even made some money for the non-profit Access For All group. Both those things were pleasant surprises for Cables and a group of volunteers who only got their clearance for the event three weeks earlier. Events included and slalom kayaking and a boat race from the American River confluence to the festival location at China Bar in the canyon below Auburn. “The flows were ideal and we had world-class boaters participating,” Cables said. “It was a great event. The event went smoothly enough to win praise from Auburn State Recreation Area rangers. “The feedback we heard was it helped change the perception some have of kayakers and rafters,” Cables said. “We showed we weren’t a bunch of yahoos.” Next year, Cables said organizers will work with the Placer County Water Agency and the city of Auburn to better-promote the event and hopefully gain access on the Auburn side of the river. Vehicle access to the event was along a seldom-used road from Cool in El Dorado County. “This has the potential to be one of the big events in the area but if we keep doing this the way we did it this year it would be a big loss for Auburn and a big benefit for the community of Cool,” Cables said. The Cool Deli saw a spurt in business on the weekend because of the festival. “”We might have seen a little increase,” deli employee Ali Brownell said. “We definitely feel it has the potential to be something great once it gets known a bit better.” Superintendent Mike Lynch, of the state Parks Department, said the festival went smoothly and has the potential to be bigger. The recreation area plays host to about 50 events a year, including the Tevis Cup horse ride and Western States 100 endurance run. “All in all, we though it was a good event,” Lynch said. “The key to it all is good planning by the event people.”