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Gauley Fest: A Festivus for the Restivus

Practice up your Roshambo. Yep, it's Gauley Fest season, American Whitewater's biggest fundraiser, held every third weekend in September. This year's even will be held Sept. 17-19 on West Virginia's Gauley River, where, if you're lucky, you can beat the grandmaster Woody Callaway of Liquidlogic Kayaks at his own game of Rock, Paper. Scissors...

Got what it takes to beat Woody? Hint: Try Paper, Paper, Rock.


...Or pretend to high-five him and then throw out a Scissors.

"It's part Grateful Dead show and part Olympic Village,"

Marking the world's largest whitewater festival, the debauchery-filled festival, sponsored by Confluence Watersports and more, is held mid-way through the six weekends of water releases on the Gauley, one of the classic whitewater runs in the country. Now entering its 31st year, all proceeds from the festival support AW's river conservation and access works (the event was started in 1983 to celebrate the derailment of a hydro-electric project that would have disrupted the flows on the Gauley).

"It's part Grateful Dead show and part Olympic Village," says AW executive director Mark Singleton. "It's always a fun time connecting with paddling buddies from across the country."

Singleton estimates that this year's event will see more than 3,000 participants and 60 exhibitors displaying their wares in the festival campground and marketplace at the Nicholas County Veterans Memorial Park just outside Summersville, W. Va. As usual, this year's event will feature live entertainment, a whitewater marketplace, raffle, and a silent auction. Note: Try to beat Liquidlogic's Woody Callaway in his famous Roshambo contest. The festival also offers live entertainment throughout the weekend, this year featuring the Halftime String Band and Kalob Griffin Band. Attendees can also view product demonstrations, interact with manufacturer reps, and buy gear and bargain prices.

Entrance fees for this year's event are $25 for a weekend pass Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; $20 for a Friday and Saturday pass; and $15 for Saturday only.

Of course, the real reason to attend is to paddle the Gauley, one of the best whitewater runs in the country. While the river courses 105 miles through the Appalachian Mountains, merging with the New River to form the Kanawha River, it's the 20-mile stretch below the Summersville Dam that's the money run.

Releases starts the Friday after Labor Day when the Army Corps of Engineers begins a series of 22 controlled, 2,400-2,800-cfs water releases on six successive four-day weekends (Friday - Monday), specifically for paddlers.

The whitewater sections include the 9.8-mile, Class IV-V Upper and the slightly easier Class III-IV Lower, which are connected with a 5.5-mile middle section. With a relatively new take-out for the Upper and put-in for the Lower at Woods Ferry, public access is easier than ever, eliminating the steep hike out.

Rapids in the Upper section include Insignificant, Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle, Iron Ring, and Sweet's Falls. On the Lower they include Wood's Ferry, PJ's Hole, Julie's Juicer, Koontz's Flume, Canyon Doors, and good ol' Rocky Top and Rollercoaster.

2013 Gauley Festival Schedule

Thursday, September 19
12:00 PM Festival Campground Opens

Friday, September 20
5:00 PM Festival Marketplace Opens
8:00 PM No more vehicle access to inner festival area (must walk from parking area)
12:00 PM Field Lights off / Quiet Hours Begin

Saturday, September 21
6:00 AM Gauley River Release
8:00 AM 4-H Breakfast at the Dining Hall opens
2:00 PM Festival Marketplace Opens
2:00 PM No more vehicle access to inner festival area (must walk from parking area)
5:00 PM AW Silent Auction Open
6:00 - 7:00 PM Halftime String Band
7:30 - 8:30 PM Halftime String Band
9:15 - 10:15 PM Kalob Griffin Band
10:00 PM AW Membership Drive Closes
10:00 PM Silent Auction Closes
10:30 PM Raffle Drawings
11:00 PM Kalob Griffin Band
12:00 PM Field Lights off / Quiet Hours Begin

Sunday September 22
6:00 AM Gauley River Release
8:00 AM 4-H Breakfast at Dining Hall opens
9:00 AM Festival Breakdown and Cleanup begins
7:00 PM Camping and vehicle parking on site ends

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