May 19th and 20th, 2018 is the annual Paddlefest at Flathead Lake State Park, Wayfarers Unit. The exact age of the event is unknown, but organizers believe it has been in existence for more than 20 years. Recent years, the event has been a sort of demo days for park partners The Sportsman Ski House and Rocky Mountain Outfitters, with safety support provided by the Flathead Paddlers Association and has drawn approximately 350 people over two days.

Building on the current success of Paddlefest, park manager, Amy Grout, hopes to grow it into a community event with a festival feel. Existing partners will remain, with the addition of the Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce who will have an information booth this year. In the spirit of making it a community event, Grout has agreed to make Bigfork Chamber members preferred vendors and the first to be contacted. The 2018 event calls for the traditional “Vendor Village,” and adds 20-30-minute informational talks throughout the day, an activities center for young and old and a Chamber member food vendor. It also brings back the ever-popular cardboard kayak race in which participants of all skill levels will design their cardboard boat on Saturday and race it Sunday as an end to the festivities. Cardboard and duct tape will be provided by Sportsman and Wayfarers. Be warned; past boat builders have been known to arrive with pre-drawn plans. The agreement made in growing the event is current event partners will continue in their roles, and future vendors will be subject to a vendor fee, that will go to sustaining the park. Hopes are to highlight, not only kayak and standup paddleboards but complimentary equipment and sports. Talks of changing the event into one day and or the extending it into the evening with music and a keynote speaker have left room to grow.

The Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce is excited to be a partner in this event, that will directly impact its members and the community. Make sure to mark your calendars. Saturday event hours are 10:00 am – 5: 00 pm and Sunday 10-2 for vendors with the cardboard boat race beginning at 2:00 pm. Everyone is welcome, from novice to experienced and those who are just curious.