Tuck Fest – the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s biggest annual three-day sporting and music festival – kicks off Friday with a series of family-friendly outdoor land and water competitions and an impressive live-music lineup.
It’s not just for adults, either. Kids can compete in trail races, scavenger hunts, slalom and obstacle courses, and learn survival skills. Even the family dog can get involved in the ultimate dog jump competition.
Adventure races, a mountain bike stunt show and kayaking share Friday’s bill with Philly folk-rocker Strands of Oak and critically adored Americana songwriter Jason Isbell.
Saturday’s schedule starts with two marathon trail races and is packed with paddle boarding, bouldering and whitewater and bike races – all within hearing distance of live music, which begins at noon with Chapel Hill newgrass string band Mipso. Sugar & the Hi Lows, Assembly of Dust and Tea Leaf Green provide the day’s soundtrack, with Trombone Shorty & Orleans’ Avenue headlining that night.
Hiss Golden Messenger, Bronze Radio Return and JJ Grey and Mofro close out the festival Sunday before dark.
“Our goal was to open up new activities and competitions that maybe the public hadn’t tried before,” says marketing director Jesse Hyde of the reasonable registration fee that covers all weekend competitions.
Musically, USNWC wants the lineup to reflect the outdoor lifestyle.
“Great outdoor music is part of the lifestyle, which is what the Whitewater Center promotes. (Festivals are) one way to share that with the Charlotte community,” says Hyde, who books the entertainment. “We center on roots, Americana, folk, bluegrass, indie rock, jazz and those fusion-type genres. We think that’s appealing to a wide variety of audiences and fits in with the lifestyle we promote.”
Although the Whitewater Center holds monthly festivals and the weekly free River Jam series, Tuck Fest is its largest event. He expects 25,000 spectators and competitors this weekend.
“What makes it unique is it’s a summation, a celebration of what we do in one weekend with all these different elements highlighted by sports and competitions,” he says.
But spectators shouldn’t feel obligated to participate. You can simply sip a craft beer while imagining how tired the competitors must be.
“Spectatorship is a big piece of Tuck Fest,” Hyde says. “The majority of people are coming out to check out the music and aren’t competing, but it’s the atmosphere.”
WHEN: 5:15 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
WHERE: U.S. National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
TICKETS: Free to spectators; VIP, which includes meals, is $125 Saturday and $75 Sunday; registration is $30 for kids and $40 for adults.