Event organizers say Animas River Days intends to carry on this June, though the annual whitewater paddling festival in Durango will be pushed back a week from its originally planned weekend as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
After speaking with officials at the city of Durango and taking into account guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the event, usually held the first weekend of June, will take place June 12-13.
Calls to event organizers were not immediately returned Friday.
“We are doing all we can to move forward because we feel people need something to look forward to in these difficult times, but we also know that the health and well-being of our community comes first,” board member Hope Tyler said in a statement.
Animas River Days, a paddling festival that culminates with the infamous river parade, began in 1983 and has never been canceled. The event also features river surfing, freestyle kayaking, boatercross and raft/kayak slalom.
New this year: The U.S. National Championship chose the event as its location for freestyle kayaking competitions, so those participating are battling for a spot on the U.S. Kayak Team.
The Dolores River Festival, however, has been canceled. Organizers said the event, planned for June 6, would pose too great a risk to the community in spreading the coronavirus.
“While we would love to see all of your smiling faces the first weekend in June, this year is just too risky,” organizers posted to social media. “Everyone’s health is of paramount importance in these times.”
Farmington also saw one of its beloved summer festivals canceled this week. The River Reach Foundation decided to cancel its annual Riverfest.
Riverfest, which is held along the Animas River trails at Berg and Animas parks, included activities like river rafting, live music, 5K and 10K runs, a Native American market and dance, wiener dog races, a fine-arts show, disc-golf tournament, and a beer and wine garden.
Originally scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, May 22-24, the foundation’s board met Thursday evening to discuss whether to cancel the event or postpone it. Ultimately, they decided to cancel this year’s event, said Karen Lupton, an event organizer.
“As an organization, we support the governor’s orders to maintain social distancing and limit gatherings to ensure that all members of our communities stay safe and healthy during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” the board said in an emailed statement.
“The River Reach Foundation remains committed to our community and committed to the enjoyment of our river corridors,” said Shaña Reeves, director of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department. “They will be working with my department to deploy signage about appropriate use of the river trails and social distancing in open spaces.”
Reeves said that the foundation and Riverfest committee consulted with the department and, while not an easy choice, “it was most assuredly made with the best interest of our community – and their wellness, both health and safety.”
While the River Reach Foundation decided to cancel Riverfest, the city of Farmington’s parks remain open to the public, including Lake Farmington. People must maintain physical-distancing guidelines and groups can be no larger than five.
“We encourage everyone to adhere to current social-distancing guidelines, enjoy the outdoors and our beautiful parks as they are able,” Lupton said in an email.
She added people could check the foundation’s Facebook page, which would be updated to include any events that “might be taking place as we navigate our way out of the current crisis.”