Bigfork Whitewater Festival Starts Prepping - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Bigfork Whitewater Festival Starts Prepping

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BIGFORK - Kayakers from as far as Chile take advantage of the rising waters. This weekend is the thirty-ninth annual Bigfork Whitewater Festival.

They've been setting up Friday, and some of the fun stuff starts Friday night.

"I'm pretty nervous," said Pangil Andrade Astorga, a professional kayaker from Chile. Pangil will be in it to win it Saturday in the upper slalom division.

"Sixteen hours on a plane-- such a long trip, but we're here and it's one of the more towns. I love it," said Pangil.

He'll have to weave his way in and out of gates that they're putting out today along the Wild Mile, the final stretch of the Swan River right before Flathead Lake.

"It's like a four-minute run, real intensive, really nice," said Pangil, "It's amazing compared with Chile because the level of the water."

"We kind of time it so that the river is at its all time peak," explained Jonathan Meyers, the festival's emcee.

This year, they've added a stand-up paddle race after adding a rafting event last year. Registration starts Saturday at 8:30 a.m., so they don't know exactly how many people will be out on the water yet, but Meyers says around what they had last year, a little more than 50, would be perfect.

"In the late nineties it was one of the most popular destinations on the pro kayaking circuit, and ever since kayaking has kind of taken a freestyle angle, the Bigfork Whitewater Festival has kind of lost popularity," said Meyers.

First prize gets $2,000. That might just cover Pangil's plane ticket.

The races last until Sunday, when they'll have an awards ceremony at the Garden Bar in downtown Bigfork.
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