Whether you’re a professional athlete, a weekend warrior, or just someone who likes watching other people sweat, the Mountain Sports Festival can fulfill your needs. This year’s celebration of mountain sports and recreation will be the biggest and the best so far, organizers say.
Begun by Stuart Cowles and a group of outdoor-sports enthusiasts eight years ago, the festival has grown to include participants of all ages and skill levels.
“We try to offer something for everybody—from our challenging trail run in Black Mountain to fun rides for kids,” says Chad Morgan, who chairs the MSF board of directors.
Last year, more than 1,000 participants registered for scheduled sports events, and about 8,000 people visited the Festival Village or attended one of the weekend’s events, organizers estimate.
This year’s festival will take place the weekend of May 30 to June 1, rather than the first weekend in May. “We moved it because of inconsistent weather, and because we were going up against the French Broad River Festival. It seemed silly to compete with them,” Morgan explains.
A sprawling village of tents and exhibits at Carrier Park (off Amboy Road in West Asheville) will anchor the festival. It will feature live bands and foods from local restaurants as well as clinics, events and demonstrations.
“We think it’ll be a lot more exciting for folks to visit the village this year,” says Morgan. “We’ve added a large number of vendors and exhibitors. We were measuring the space a few days ago, and we realized it’ll be tight.”
Featured events will include a mountain-unicycling demonstration, a kids’ climbing-wall competition, a tree-climbing demo and a dodge-ball tournament.
The music lineup will include local favorites Laura Reed & Deep Pocket, Stephanie’s Id, Woody Wood and HollyWood-Red, and SeepeopleS. On Sunday afternoon, national touring acts such as Col. Bruce Hampton and the Quark Alliance, and The Blue Method will perform.
“There are so many festivals, and so many music festivals in this area. Music is important at [MSF], but we’re not just a music festival: We’re promoting outdoor recreation in our area,” emphasizes Christen McNamara, the festival’s director.
New events this year include a family kayak race, the 5K Wonder Girl road race and Wheel Ride for Food, a metric century (64.5 miles) or half-century bike ride that will benefit Meals on Wheels of Asheville and Buncombe County.
More than 1,500 elementary- and middle-school girls plan to run the 5K Wonder Girl race, the final project of the local Girls on the Run group. For many of the girls, it will be their first attempt to complete a 5K. The Wonder Girl is open to all who want to run.
Most children’s events are free, including the Iron Kids competitions (there’s a $5 fee for the climbing-wall competition). Prizes for participating youth include $100 Merrell shoes gift certificates.
“Our goal is getting more kids outside, and that’s our sponsors’ goal too,” notes McNamara.
Another new event, the Blue Ridge Outdoors Ball, will offer festival participants a chance to move their bodies noncompetitively—or just relax. The ball will happen Saturday night at The Root Bar in east Asheville.
“It’s kind of like a prom for outdoor athletes. Some of them will be coming straight from events in their spandex and T-shirts, while others will be in ball gowns,” McNamara explains.
Ever-popular events (for both participants and spectators) include the bike- and skateboard-stunt demonstrations, the disc-golf tournament at Richmond Hill Park, the Rock2Rock trail run, and the Sunday-morning gear swap.
But while all the bipeds in the family are welcome to compete or play, leave your pooch at home: No dogs are allowed in the Festival Village.
For more information, visit the festival’s new Web site at www.mountainsportsfestival.com.