Canoecopia, the world’s largest paddlesports consumer show, will return again to the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall in Madison, Wisconsin, on March 10th through 12th, 2006. This annual show is presented by Rutabaga, a paddlesports icon located in Monona.
“Canoecopia is a mixture of a consumer event, paddling exhibition, outdoor school and family reunion.” said Darren Bush, co-owner of Rutabaga. “It’s the sort of event that brings people back every year to see what’s new in paddling, but also to see fellow paddlers and enjoy that community.”
“Canoecopia is definitely one of our largest and most prestigious shows, “ said Alliant Energy Center’s Executive Director Bill DiCarlo. “Canoecopia draws from all over the country and attendees enjoy a very high-caliber event. There really is nothing else like Canoecopia.”
“From a manufacturing standpoint, it’s the one time of the year that my entire staff can touch the customer directly,” says Rich Enochs, CEO of Wenonah Canoe and Current Designs Kayaks. “It’s a great learning experience for us to interact with people who are in the process of selecting a canoe. The whole Canoecopia experience is exciting and our staff look forward to it every year.”
Long-time enthusiast Bryan Whitehead has attended Canoecopia for years. “Canoecopia is an absolutely unique event. This is America’s preeminent gathering for canoe, kayak and wilderness camping enthusiasts. The exhibitors, the speakers, the deals are such that I look forward to this weekend all year long.”
Canoecopia veteran Greg Loper sees Canoecopia as a feast for outdoor enthusiasts. “Our biggest challenge is choosing what presenters we want to see. Every year we have to forego seeing a speaker we really wanted to hear, and looking at this year’s schedule, we are really torn because there is so much going on. Between the cooking presentations, the hands on workshops, and the pool demos, we could spend a week and still not see everything we want.” Greg’s daughter Liz, age 5, puts it much more succinctly; “How much longer ‘til we go see all the canoes?”
Canoecopia speaker Ken Brown has a different perspective. “Canoecopia is the modern day rendezvous. Like the voyageur rendezvous of 200 years ago, Canoecopia is a commercial event where goods are bought and sold. But it is more than that. It is a once-a-year social gathering of like-minded people, with celebration, education, and a festive atmosphere, where friendships and acquaintances are made or re-made. I imagine that a 19th century voyageur experiencing Canoecopia would immediately identify it as a rendezvous.”
The educational component of Canoecopia makes it a unique event. Six speaker rooms seating from 200 to 500 run continuously over the three-day event, with over fifty speakers and presenters. “There is something for everybody,” says Megan Pfieffer, Canoecopia Event Coordinator. “We have topics that touch on all aspects of paddling all over the world. Last year over 28,000 speaker seats were filled.”
Topics range from skin and frame kayaks of Greenland to exotic paddling destinations to specific paddling skills. Many women are speaking on topics of particular interest to women in conjunction with Water Divas, a Rutabaga-based program that caters specifically to women paddlers (and those who want to be).
Of course, some presenters can’t resist injecting a little humor. Presenter and Wilderness Survival educator Tim Smith subtitles his Wilderness Survival seminar “Becoming One With Nature While Avoiding the Composting Process.”
Canoecopia has been presented by Rutabaga, The Paddlesports Shop, for over 25 years. In the past decade Canoecopia has more than tripled in size, now filling the entire Exposition Hall with displays for guide services, manufacturers, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and paddling clubs.