Organizers say this year’s Yampa River Festival is just the start

The new stage in Loudy Simpson Park which was recently built to host events like Yampa Fest and Whittle the Wood.
Amber Delay/Craig Press

This Saturday, Moffat County’s first-ever reggae festival kicks off at Loudy Simpson Park.

Yampa River Roots Reggae Fest will be a one-day affair centered around a key part of the community – the Yampa River – and, of course, it will be accompanied by reggae music.

One of the event organizers, Josh Veenstra, said the main inspiration that brought this festival to life was to create an event that featured the Yampa River and all that Craig has to offer.

“We have this Yampa River, and we’ve never had a festival named to showcase the river that runs through our city,” Veenstra said. “I think the future of our city is the river.

Looking at other concert series on the West Rim, the organizers of the Yampa River Festival have found that the focus has always been on other genres like country or bluegrass, and that it is necessary to bring a new atmosphere in the city. As a result, the Yampa River Festival lineup will feature an eclectic assortment of reggae artists in a glowing lights themed show.

The local reggae festival hosts are Rocky Mountain Cannabis and Good Vibes River Gear. The main sponsor of the event is Rocky Mountain Cannabis, which made possible the entire festival free.

The festivities will begin with a fun 5K run at Loudy Simpson. After the race there will be a free yoga class in the park with local yoga teacher Kristin Skowronski. People must bring their own yoga mat and bottle of water for morning activities. There will also be food and drink vendors in the park beginning at 11 a.m.

To celebrate the festival’s namesake, a river cleanup is scheduled from Ranney Street Bridge to Loudy Simpson Railway Bridge from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. This will be a great way to give back to the river during the festival.

Additionally, Good Vibes River Gear will be holding stand-up paddle board demonstrations at the park in the afternoon, with locally made Hala boards being transported to the river shop. People can stop to test the water and river gear to cool off.

The whole festival is set up to be a family event.

For much of the day, the Craig Skatepark Alliance will be hosting a skate day with ramps set up near the soccer fields and boards for people to ride on a first-come, first-served basis. The Craig Skatepark Alliance will also be accepting donations that will go towards the skate park project.

The music will begin at 4:20 p.m. with the opening act of Ghost.Wav, a reggae/rock/hip-hop group from Denver. The beer gardens, sponsored by the New Belgium Brewing Company, will open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. with a cash-only bar.

Proceeds from alcohol sales will go to Parrotheads, Craig’s Chamber of Commerce and the Good Vibes River Fund to support local nonprofits focused on helping the community and the Yampa River.

Spectators will be able to enjoy the music from the grass, where they can bring blankets and camping chairs. There will be no dogs, outside alcohol, coolers or firearms allowed at the festival.

Once the sun goes down, the park will be full of glowing lights and dancing. Yampa Fest organizers invite spectators to wear neon glow-in-the-dark clothing and bring all that glitters. Organizers encourage LED lights because they are rechargeable and reusable.

The two headliners were hand-selected by Veenstra and fellow festival organizer Paul James.

“Sensi Trails is absolutely one of my favorite reggae bands,” Veenstra said. “They play a vibe that I’ve been listening to forever – ‘Just Livin’ – which kind of set the tone for Good Vibes River Gear.”

The headliner, Tomorrows Bad Seeds, has been picked by James and will play into the night in what the band describes as “a perfect blend of hip hop, punk, reggae, rock and soul”.

It will be the first festival of its kind in the community, one which Veenstra says was created with the aim of becoming a flagship event that can grow alongside more activity on the Yampa.

“The future of this is going to be huge,” Veenstra said. “It’s sort of based around the whitewater park being built in Craig.”

The whitewater park project began years ago with the Parrotheads and has since gained momentum with the support of the City of Craig and aided by grants.

“This is the year we have to make it shine,” Veenstra said. “And before you know it, it will bloom.”

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