National Paddling Film Festival

A Kentucky grass-roots festival celebrating the best of whitewater paddling through film.

On February 22-23, 2013, paddlers from around the Southeast will gather in Frankfort, Kentucky to watch and compete in the 30th National Paddling Film Festival. This grass-roots festival has worked the last three decades to celebrate and showcase the best of whitewater paddling through film.

So … why a whitewater film festival in February in Kentucky? “Oddly enough we have an extremely active paddling community in Kentucky,” Bethany Overfield, NPFF director, said. “We have some great local creeks, but we have to travel a bit to get on our favorite runs. This really brings us together as a community.” The festival used to take place in September, but was moved to February many years ago because there is essentially nothing else to do in February. Anywhere. “To top this all off—we love throwing a big party!” Overfield said.

Funds raised go to American Whitewater and other river conservation efforts. In that time, the NPFF has also helped to raise the quality of paddle sport entertainment by providing recognition of talent along with important and useful feedback for the artists who make the show possible.

Every year, the film festival also has a guest host, and this year is none other than Rush Sturges. “We are stoked to have Rush Sturgis as our guest host,” Overfield said. “Rush has been firing up quality whitewater since he was born. He’s gotten into expedition kayaking and is going to present some never before seen footage of his recent travels.” Organizers at the festival felt really lucky the last several years with guest hosts such as Doug Ammons and Steve Fisher.

“I’m really stoked to participate,” Chris Loomis, local Southeastern paddler and filmmaker. “I’m honored to have my work go up on the same screen as Anson Fogel, Steve Fischer, and Rush Sturges. Those guys are all legends and the fact that I’ll be on the same program as those guys is something I’m very proud of.”

The first festival took place in a barn at the Kentucky Horse Park in 1983 and was inspired by footage about the Russell Fork Gorge. So much has changed over the years—the venue has changed, the films format has changed, even the styles of kayaking have changed—but the festival has grown with the changes and has maintained the festival for 30 years.

“I expect to see a lot of quality films, get to hear from Rush Sturges and other upper echelon filmmakers, and have a great weekend,” Loomis said. “I also expect to see a lot of brown claws.”

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