Floatfest 2017 would like to thank all their sponsors and supporters.

Kookaburra Homes, Riverglen Marina and Houseboat Hire, Canoe the Coorong, BCF, Breeze Hire, The Rural City of Murray Bridge, Rivers Edge Caravan Park, South Australian Tourism Commission – Events SA, Proud Mary, Liquid Life and Leisure, Murray Bridge Newsagency and Toyworld, Proud Mary, Captain Proud Paddle wheeler, Riverscape Restaurant, Sanctuary on Seventh, Discover Murray-Mallee and Destination Murraylands.

Kookaburra Homes are on board as naming rights sponsor until 2020.

This local builder is a true icon of the Murray Bridge community. Our on-water director Brenton Carle of Canoe the Coorong is a cornerstone of the event, confidently handling the weather and ensuring everyone has fun. Riverglen Marina and houseboat hire are stars of the show, parking houseboats for open inspection on the riverfront and bringing a superb early bird prize of a houseboat holiday. BCF were new this year and had a strong brand presence over the two days. Rivers Edge Caravan Park, Breeze boat hire, Discover Murray, Murray River Lakes and Coorong, and other local sites and businesses lent excellent ‘in kind’ support. The South Australian Tourism Commission via Events SA has invited us to apply for their marketing grants again for 2018. They keep a watchful eye on what we’re doing and their support is invaluable.

We’re proud to have Can:Do4Kids as our charity partner.

They raise funds for vital services for South Australian children who are blind, deaf, or sensory impaired and they brought two busloads of special kids and their families to enjoy a guided paddling experience. Watching them being happily shepherded by Brenton and the crew from Canoe Polo SA was an inspiring moment amongst a drenched and windy weekend.

Royal Life Saving South Australia proved how critical to the event they are by being on water and on duty to support our paddlers and maintain closed water

Sailability is a local group providing sailing opportunities for disabled people and they excelled themselves by providing a duty boat to help keep us all safe. They added bright colour to the event as they sailed happily in their cool little sailboats.

Department of Marine and Harbours authorise and maintain our closed waters. Closed waters are a key part of our event as it’s all about enjoying the river free of powerboats whizzing by whipping up waves and creating safety hazards. Yes jet-skis, we’re looking at you.

For the second year in a row the weather wasn’t on our side. Despite calm, clear and warm weather stretching for days either side of the weekend, a forecast cold front arrived on Saturday night bringing Sunday’s temperature down to 19 with heavy showers and gale force squalls. I’m not sure what we’ve done to deserve a smashing two years in a row but it won’t stop us from trying again.

The team met at Sturt Reserve on a calm and sunny Friday afternoon and waited for the closed road signs to go up. It wasn’t long after that the scouts started to stream in as the afternoon faded into a warm and still night. Riverscape restaurant and the Murray Bridge Club were packed with diners. After dinner, lit up like a Christmas tree, the Proud Mary left her wharf. Her powerful searchlights blazed and her horn thundered as she set off carrying a cargo of happy passengers on a multi-day cruise up the river. The river was beautifully calm, the riverfront was bustling with activity and there was a cosmopolitan feel to Murray Bridge.

On Saturday, the wind stayed down all morning, which was great for setting up, but a bit of an issue for a kite festival. Winds picked up in the afternoon and kites were flown. Kids and families flocked to the activities, including a petting zoo, face painting, giant games, and food and drink. The historical trestles lent to us by the Murray Bridge show society went on display for people to sit and eat at. Food vans like ‘Decaf’ coffee van, The Wedgie Barn, A la Folly French B and B, Natural ice-cream and hot dogs joined Riverscape Restaurant and a Scouts SA barbecue to feed the crowds.  Over at the waterfront the canoe obstacle course went well, with competitors battling it out for five hundred dollars of prizes. The lucky duck hunt was great, the kids who won the prize of the Monarto Zoo giraffe safari were naturally excited. As the winds grew stronger the day became all about the kite festival and Floatfest carried on with vendors on display, canoe polo demonstrations, water confidence workshops, and paddle trail tours.

The dinner cruise on the Captain Proud that night was a full house. It’s a great three hour cruise on a paddle wheeler at night under the bridges enjoying a meal and drinks with some locals.

Sunday morning was like waking up to winter after a long summer.

From the get go it was clear the wind was going to try flinging everything we’d built into the sky, or drive our kayakers onto the far shore of the river. The Marathon Canoe Club weren’t fazed by the wind and their marathon events gave some athletic activity as a backdrop to our mad weighing down of tents and gazebos and reworking programs and resources to cope with the extreme weather. The Canoe Polo team were similarly unfazed. Like aggressive ducks on water, they were truly impressive.  Our water safety workshops were a hit and eased everyone into the swing of things.  Some of our food vans joined us again along with popcorn and fairy floss organised by the Can:Do4Kids team. The kind folks from SA Health’s ‘Brain Bus’ on tour paid for breakfast for everyone present from the Murray Bridge Rotary Club BBQ!

As the morning progressed Jen and Brenton were flat out making sure all the Can:Do4Kids were safe and properly decked out. The duty boats and marine safety boat were on hand to provide a safe experience right up against the shore. By this time, the weather had resolutely formed a pattern. It was always very windy but every half hour or so a squall would come through with gale force wind gusts driving heavy rain sideways at us and making water activities all but impossible. Several planned activities were cancelled with the wild weather making organisation next to impossible. Just holding everything down and keeping it dry was a challenge.

Ngarrindjeri aboriginal elders joined us on Sunday afternoon. Aunty Sandy’s welcome to country and Uncle Moggy’s smoking/cleansing ceremony were calm moments of brevity in a wild weather afternoon. We look forward to having them with us again next year (on a less windy day) and Aunty Lena can spend time telling indigenous stories to the children.

At 1.30pm the record count was hastily planned and then unplanned to match the wild weather.

Forty-two paddlers in the raft up from over two hundred registrations.  The weather was driving people away. The small group meant that those who were brave enough to go on water had a great time. Brenton’s got great style out on the water and his cheerfully confident attitude made the experience fun.

After the count, we lined up our kayaks end to end for another record count event to create an eye-catching spectacle of colour on a grey and wet afternoon. We invited people back to the registration desk to hear who had won the major prizes (almost two thousand dollars’ worth). Right on time a cold, wind driven shower came through drenching the faithful who’d gathered to see if they’d won. We battled on to deliver speeches before the next windy squall, and moved on to the pack up as the weather began to ease.

Floatfest will be back next year…

and the next, and the next, thanks to local community sponsors and supporters and a passionate and experienced team.

The event was a success this year in that it went ahead. A few tenacious personalities snatched it from the jaws of disaster.  It’s a testament to what can be achieved years to come, despite the weather!


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Floatfest 2017 recap
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