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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokatopia returns to Camp Sekani to celebrate everything outdoors on Saturday

Bikers get air during the Jump Jam at the Spokatopia festival on Saturday.  (Paige Van Buren/The Spokesman-Review)

Outdoor enthusiasts of all experience levels gathered Saturday at Camp Sekani to participate in the adventure festival Spokatopia.

Organizers Shallan and Derrick Knowles started the event eight years ago. Shallan Knowles said the main goal with Spokatopia is to “bring recreation together with the people that maintain the trails here and create a fundraiser for them.”

The Knowles also want to expand accessibility to outdoor adventures.

They hope to “reduce the barriers for people to come to an outdoor recreation area and learn how to do rock climbing or get on a paddle board, so that they’re more comfortable going into a shop and possibly buying one or participating in other recreation-type events and activities in the area,” Shallan Knowles said.

Knowles walked around Camp Sekani, chatting with attendees and asking how they were doing. Amy Biviano, who had just rode into camp, asked if there was a coffee stand this year. There wasn’t, but Knowles immediately went to go grab some instant coffee to offer Biviano.

That’s the kind of energy that Biviano said she appreciates about Spokatopia. She also said she loves the waterfront at Boulder Beach.

“Every year I bike in, chill out and go get in the water,” said Biviano. “The real draw is the different paddleboards and watercraft.”

There were plenty of activities at Spokatopia this year. Bike and watercraft demonstrations were available, as well as a shuttle that took bikers to the top of routes on Beacon Hill. Slacklines, live music, yoga classes and a beer garden were some relaxing features of the event.

New this year were rock-climbing clinics, kids activities, tandem kayak tours and a shuttle from Pasadena Park Elementary to ease crowded parking. These additions were a hit, Knowles said.

“People have loved them and signed up for them so we’ll probably add more next year,” she said. “The other new thing we did is we had a Friday night happy hour for just the bike shuttle and the bike demos. Last night we were open with just the bikes, and that was really fun.”

She explained that when Spokatopia began, there weren’t many features to engage children. That’s changed as her own family has grown.

“When we started this event, the first year, our kid was 3 months old,” said Knowles. “Now that he’s 8, we realized quickly we needed to add some kid’s events because we had a kid.”

Spokatopia 2023 had a kids passport and different booths where children could see reptiles, play in the sand, learn how to set up a tent or watch a puppet show.

Betty Burley-Wolf was volunteering at one of the children’s booths.

“I brought all the sand toys,” Burley-Wolf said.

Spokatopia catered to children and serious mountain bikers alike. One event that has been a feature of Spokatopia since the beginning is the Jump Jam. This is a 45-minute session of bikers riding a pump track and attempting tricks in midair.

“We’ve done it every single year,” said Knowles. “It’s really popular. We corral people into this little viewing area, and then people jump all around you and there’s music going on, so it’s fun.”

Attendance this year was hard for her to estimate, especially due to the high temperatures that topped out at 97 degrees at nearby Felts Field on Saturday afternoon.

“It just sort of flows all day,” said Knowles. “It’s a big enough space that it never feels crowded. But we’ve had more presales than we’ve ever had before.”

The point of Spokatopia, one vendor said, is not necessarily to sell equipment, although that is a bonus.

“It’s just to get to know people, and let them get to know us,” said Bailey Mitchell, who represented Rambleraven Gear Trader.

Staci McCoy is a veteran attendee who spoke highly of Spokatopia.

“I love how healthy it is,” McCoy said. “It’s got a good vibe. I come as often as I can. It’s a beautiful event.”

Paige Van Buren's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.