Canoecopia 16 returned to Madison last weekend and brought innovation and beauty to the record 21,000 visitors who attended the show.
Attendees roamed the huge 250,000 square foot Alliant Energy Center when they weren’t in conference rooms listening to seminars from top paddling experts.
The event is hosted by Rutabaga Paddlesports, Madison’s many-time award-winning store.
“For me, Canoecopia is composed of many components,” according to Rutabaga owner Darren Bush, who has hosted 22 events since taking over the store in 1994. “Sure, stuff’s on sale, but that’s not the real incentive to attend. Our educational offerings are a major part of our event, since we believe knowledge is the key to enjoying time on the water, and the best piece of gear is a well-informed and competent brain.”
Bush talked about what the show means to him.
“Personally, the best part for me is the connection we paddlers create and recreate with each other every March. After three days, hundreds of smiles, and dozens of hugs, I feel like the season can start because we’re all in sync with each other. We all love the same thing; to get on the water,” he waxed poetic.
Bush noted some of the highlights of the event:
“Kevin Callan always draws a crowd. He’s a regular commentator on CBC radio and TV, under his moniker “The Happy Camper.” Grant Herman and Gail Green are popular – guides out of Bayfield talking about the Apostles. (They have) decades of experience in this area. Kenny Salwey is a local (Mississippi River) storyteller and river rat. Packs them in.
“Not a speaker per se, but a panel of chefs for Aluminum Chef, a take-off on Iron Chef. Camping equipment, two camp cooks and one professional chef from a local restaurant. Lots of fun.
“Also not a speaker but a band: Jerry Vandiver and the One-Match Band, a group of musicians from Nashville. Jerry is a paddler, but also has songs on 15 platinum records. He has three CDs of songs written for paddlers about paddling. He’s really good.”