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‘People are itching to get out’: Spokatopia outdoor sport festival makes event-filled return after two cancellations

July 6, 2022 Updated Thu., July 7, 2022 at 9:32 p.m.

CJ Gannon, 11, center, paddles to victory over her brother, Rocco, 9, left, and Brody Murphy, 10, during the Spokatopia SUP Cup children’s division on July 14, 2019, at Boulder Beach on the Spokane River.  (DAN PELLE)
CJ Gannon, 11, center, paddles to victory over her brother, Rocco, 9, left, and Brody Murphy, 10, during the Spokatopia SUP Cup children’s division on July 14, 2019, at Boulder Beach on the Spokane River. (DAN PELLE)
By Julien A. Luebbers The Spokesman-Review

Spokatopia, one of the region’s largest outdoor sporting festivals, returns Saturday for the first time since 2019 to Sekani Park and Boulder Beach.

Spokatopia is a day of outdoor fun and activities across a range of sports. The event is co-founded and organized by Derrick and Shallan Knowles, who are also co-publishers of Out There Outdoors monthly magazine. The day includes mountain biking, trail running, kayaking and canoeing, paddle boarding, yoga, live music, slacklining and outdoor education .

In past years, Spokatopia has played host to over 2,000 participants.

“We figure 1,500 to 2,500 (visitors)” for this year, Derrick Knowles said. “The weather looks awesome, so it could be a big year. People are itching to get out, for sure.”

The event was canceled in 2020 due to COVID and 2021 because of weather.

“People can get a wristband for $5 and sign a waiver,” Knowles said, “and then participate in all these different activities.”

The event is priced to encourage as many people as possible to enjoy the outdoors and the world of outdoor sporting.

Almost every activity is hosted and operated by a group of regional outdoor clubs and retailers, who will provide the equipment for the day. Festivalgoers can demo a paddleboard or kayak and head out on the lake-like waters of the Spokane River at Boulder Beach.

Participants can also demo bikes from eight local and regional bike shops and ride Camp Sekani Park’s trail system, either solo or as a group. The event will have drinks for sale and a mountain biking jump show. The day is punctuated with skills clinics and group activities.

The MTB jump show is one of the highlights of Spokatopia, Knowles said. “Really talented, skilled riders go off some really big jumps for about 45 minutes,” Knowles said. In previous years, “the bike jump show really blew me away. The riders do things that I could never do, that are just incredible to watch on a bike.”

There will also be live music performances throughout the day, from Matt Mitchell Music Co., Carter Hudson, Suhanna Cree and Joe Cajon.

For kids, Spokatopia offers arts and crafts, games, an owl and raptor presentation by West Valley Outdoor Learning Center among other activities. Kids and adults can demo bikes from vendors and enjoy water sports.

Saturday’s event is also a unique opportunity for downhill-loving mountain bikers. Throughout the day, the festival will operate shuttles to the top of the trails so bikers don’t have to pedal all the way up. Access to the shuttles requires an additional pass.

Parking for the event is limited, even though Spokatopia has permission to use bike lanes and street sides for participant parking.

To reduce parking stress, and in the spirit of an outdoor adventure, organizers have arranged Park & Ride lots at Pasadena Park Elementary School (1 mile from the event) and Avista Utilities headquarters(5 miles from the event).

“We really push people to (bike). Ride your bike. It’s fun,” Knowles said. “Ride on the Centennial Trail or in the bike lane to the event and then leave bikes with us. Get some exercise and don’t have to worry about parking hassles.”

Visitors can park their cars and bike the rest of the way, leaving their bikes at the event’s secure Camp Sekani bike corral. Anyone who rides their bike to Spokatopia and checks it in will be entered to win more than $1,000 in prizes.

Knowles is excited to see the event’s return, and to see “so many people smiling and having fun together. It’s really inviting.”

“Everybody generally is really happy as long as the weather’s good,” he added. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will be in the 80s, and it will be sunny.

To purchase tickets ahead of time, visit the event’s website at spokatopia.com.

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