Not only is the Lehigh River the area's principal watershed, it's also a world to itself for paddlers who enjoy meandering through its scenic riverscape or go for the gusto in the whitewater sections of Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Either way, seasoned paddlers and those interested in learning about the sport are sure to have a blast at the Kayak and Canoe Festival. The event is organized by the Lehigh Valley Kayak and Canoe Club (formerly the Lehigh Valley Canoe Club) and held Saturday, February 20 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Saucon Valley High School, 2100 Polk Valley Road in Hellertown, PA.

The event features over four hours of prescreened, high-quality paddling films from the National Paddling Film Festival. The ten films selected are: The Final Final, A River's Last Breath, Slave to the Rain, Symbiosis, MUWC 3 Team Go Medium, Endless Season, Eastern Horizons, Last Frontier, Steep Creek Skills, and Zen & the Art of Soul Boating.

Classroom sessions focus on sea kayaking, canoe and kayak safety, recreational kayaking, kayak fishing, and whitewater kayaking and canoeing. In the pool, there are rescue and technique demonstrations.

World class kayak and canoe instructor, Karen Knight, will be the featured demonstrator. She will be in the pool from 5 to 6 p.m. demonstrating the fine art of stroke mechanics.

Representatives from local paddling clubs, conservation groups, paddling schools and outfitters will be on hand to explain what they can offer and answer questions. There will be a paddling gear silent auction, a used kayak and canoe swap, and a raffle for a new Liquid Logic sit-on-top kayak.

For this eighth annual event, organizer Mike Stewart is expecting over 200 attendees. Stewart noted an irony, although the event is in its eighth season, because he is new to paddling, he has not been to the previous festivals.

"I am looking forward to attending since I have never been to one before, and I hope that I can find the time to see the demonstrations which promise to be educational and entertaining," Steward noted. "I participated in the prescreening of the films and was blown away-they are excellent. I found them very entertaining, covering the whole gamut of paddling from exciting class five whitewater thrill rides through calm water scenic touring. Some thought-provoking environmental themes were covered as well as a bit of humor thrown in for good measure."

The event began in 2002 after club member John Schneller was impressed by the quality and range of the films at the National Paddling Film Festival and urged the club to sponsor their showing locally. Learning these films could be made available to local paddling clubs, it was decided that a paddling film festival be sponsored by the club in the Lehigh Valley.

Schneller organized the first paddling film festivals, The Festival proved an immediate success drawing over 200 people from as far away as New Hampshire.

Schneller stepped back as he battled, ultimately losing to cancer in 2007. Kayaking was a major part of his life, and even today, drivers passing through Walnutport on Rt. 145, are amazed to see the mailbox in front of his home, surrounded by a pink kayak.