Canoecopia 2023
"After a great blow, or crisis, after the first shock and then after the nerves have stopped screaming and twitching, you settle down to the new condition of things, and feel that all possibility of change has been used up. But if anything is certain, it is that no story is ever over, for the story which we think is over is only a chapter in a story...and it isn't the game that is over, it is just an inning."
 - Robert Penn Warren, All The King's Men

I remember standing on a chair in the Alliant Energy Center on Thursday, March 12, 2020, a few minutes after 1:00pm. My daughter held my hand for support, and there were more than a few tears from all of us.

With a broken voice, I croaked out that Canoecopia 2020 was cancelled. COVID was rampant, and if we had held the show, we were certain people would get sick, and some of them might die. I couldn't let that happen on my watch. The next day the Governor of Wisconsin shut down gatherings of over 100 people.

That was over 1,000 days ago. A thousand sunrises and sunsets have occurred, and the world has certainly changed since then. To everything, there is a season: a time to cancel (2020), a time to go virtual (2021), a time to go hybrid (2022), and a time to return (2023).

This will be my 32nd Canoecopia. I have been working Canoecopias for more than half my life. It is part of me, part of my internal calendar that says "It's March, Darren. Time to gather with your people."

The first Canoecopia I worked at was as a part-time grunt. I was in a knee-high orthopedic boot from a fractured fibula, so the only thing I was good for was putting price stickers on dry bags. I sat on a box alone with a price gun, the familiar click-chunk spitting out the little red tags. Bill was the sales rep for Cascade Designs, the manufacturer of the dry bags I was pricing. He stopped to say thanks for the help. He was the first of many friends I would make over three decades.

Over the next few shows I met Mike Cichanowski from Wenonah Canoe, Roy and Juanita Guinn from Blue Hole; Joe Pulliam from Dagger, Ted Bell from Bell Canoeworks (now Northstar). Andy Zimmerman (Uncle Andy to my kids) from Wilderness Systems, Bob Gramprie from Sawyer, Mike Galt from Lotus, and dozens of others who with ease became family to me. Over 32 years I have met hundreds of manufacturers and thousands of customer-friends because of Canoecopia. I am most thankful.

In the last three decades, Canoecopia has become a massive team effort, with everyone on staff taking part. This makes for a better show than when I was the one-man plate-spinner during the 90s. The people who run it are competent and humble; my favorite combination. But as you know if you've been to my shop, we have the best staff in the world, bar none.

I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to the second weekend in March. Actually, I guess I just did. Hope to see you all there, and keep watching the website for new announcements of exhibitors and presentations. If you've been before, welcome back. If you haven't, welcome.

Gratefully,

Darren