Has anyone done a canoe show?

In order to create some interest in canoeing and paddling in eastern South Dakota, I am considering putting together a canoe show on a very small scale. I have a business (unrelated to paddling or the outdoors) in a small town (1600) with enough square footage to display 12-18 canoes of various types, and would advertise it in the local paper. A few nearby sporting goods stores stock canoes, but do nothing to promote paddling. My intention is not to sell anything, only to spark some interest by showing some of my seven canoes, along with some wood/canvas and stripper models owned by friends. Has anyone tried such an event? I would appreciate any suggestions.

Sounds like a good idea…

– Last Updated: Feb-16-06 12:51 AM EST –

...since many people have fantasized about paddling, but never touched a kayak or canoe, nor talked with a paddler. Besides or instead of new models, how about having local paddlers (a club?) volunteer to display their craft/equipment and schmooze with visitors? I'd drive 50 miles to pontificate at such a show, and in S.D. folks would travel further.

Yes, a good idea
I’m blessed by living in an area where there is a good deal of interest in paddling, but this hasn’t always been the case. In my previous life (before moving to this state) I knew almost nobody else who actually paddled, though many seemed to be of the opinion that it would be a sort of nice thing to do.

I’m not sure that the display of boats is the logical starting point in generating interest in the sport, though. In my opinion at least, most of us come to this sport because we are drawn to nature and appreciate a simple, quiet, traditional approach to it. The boats are a means to and end. They are secondary.

Perhaps because Canoecopia is coming up in my area, I’m currently thinking there a danger that what origionally drew us to this sport sometimes gets a little lost in industry-sponsered events. People who are new to the sport might end up walking away feeling like they’ve just been to yet another trade show where yet another “evangalist” has tried to sell them on something.

The more effective way to draw folks in, I would think, would be to offer seminars on wildlife found along waterways, scenic vistas that are available only to those who paddle, appeal to those who want to experiance the region as the first explorers did - taste the wind and feel the waves, and those who seek solitude, serenity, or the individual challanges the sport offers. Maybe even offer some short local day trips in rental boats in the company of local club members or something. Show them the “why” and let them think about their own “how”.

THEN show them the boats. Show them how each reflects a different way of venturing into the natural - WW speciality boats, wood & canvas as a traditional approach, the Boundary Waters cruisers as modern specialized trippers, etc.

Just some personal ideas & musings…Thought I’d put them out in the hopes they might prove in some way beneficial to your (worthy, I believe) endeavor.

canadian canoe routes forum
If you do this, and I think you should!, post on myccr too - people may have ideas, and you’ll find some other paddlers from your neck of the woods (or prairies).


Not a show…
My local paddling club has an “intro to paddling” event once a year. It is held in partnership with a local state park so we can use their beach and a quiet section of the lake. It’s a full day, and it includes going over basic safety, basic differences between different styles of boats, basic strokes, etc. Folks can bring their own boat, but most borrow a boat provided either by the state park which has a rental fleet, or boats brought by club members. The event is publicized through flyers at local gear shops, the newspaper and the state park website. This works because we have an active club with enough ACA-accredited instructors willing to volunteer, but it seems to be a good way to introduce complete newbies into paddling. They can try out a variety of boats, and if they haven’t already purchased, they are a more informed consumer ready to start their search. I’m not an instructor yet but helped out at last year’s event, and it was great sharing something I love with people who are just getting started, or just interested in trying paddling out to see if it’s for them.

Might not work for you and your area, but thought I’d share something that’s working in our area.

Good luck!


Go For It
Sounds like a good idea, what have you got to Lose? If possible I would try to time it when something else was going on in the area, a Festival or something along those lines, in order to take advantage of the influx of people that show up to attend whatever the other event may be.

Even if this other event isn’t in your town “proper” you may be able to lure people in that are traveling thru your area on their way to & from whatever else may be going on at that time.

Just a thought…


Have done this several times
At our local Boy Scout leaders roundtable in the late winter or early spring to spark interest in summer activitiies. We used a wide spectrum of canoes to show what is available and to illustrate the different hull shapes and usage specific designs. Since the main usage of this group is canoe tripping, we brought several variations of tripping canoes. From the familiar Grumman aluminum and low cost Coleman, to royalex and kevlar hulls. Using as many 17’ models as possible made it easier to directly compare the shapes and portage ease.

It was successful enough to be requested annually for over ten years in addition to several years of an outdoor camping expo.

It was never a sales demo, just an informational talk with lots of questions and answers, finishing with an invitation to an on-water day later in the spring when there was open water.

From these talks and my standing offer of my personal canoe to any Trustworthy Scouter going on a canoe trip, my old Spirit has been to Algonquin Provincial Park a half dozen times more than i have; and that has resulted in the purchase of a good kevlar canoe each time the Spirit went North.

Do it and help more people find out how much fun our sport can be.


The Minnesota Canoe Association does some of those type shows. I know they used to do them in small malls – you know, those manned displays that you see while shopping. They are a nice bunch and may be helpful.



– Last Updated: Feb-16-06 3:09 PM EST –

I think it's vital to have some sort of demonstration--live or video--showing what canoes can do in skilled hands. The only exposure most folks have had--if any--is drifting downstream in a clunky rental. I didn't appreciate canoes until I started kayaking and started seeing good canoeists out on the water. The Bill Mason tapes are good, and I'm sure there are others. Some freestyle video (Karen Knight?)would be a real eye-opener.

nice short clips at the bottom of this page:


I'd also agree that you should show what you can do with a canoe. So instead of all empty boats, have one loaded up with packs, one set up for fishing, etc.

thanks for the suggestions and email
I appreciate the suggestions and emails in support of the canoe show I am hoping to pull off in June. Several have suggested an event more “hands on” where people can actually try a canoe or kayak, and I don’t necessarily disagree. My intention is to offer the showing of canoes (and might allow a kayak or two) during an annual community celebration, where people are wandering down main street looking for things to do. Our local state park sponsors a canoe rally in July, but is poorly attended by specatators and does not quite go far enough, in my view, to encourage novices to try paddling.

My hunch is that by viewing a display including a restored wood/canvas canoe, Merrimack Baboosic, Blackhawk Zephyr, Lotus Egret, and other canoes, some folks will be inspired to actually try paddling. Each of your replies have been helpful to me, so thanks again for your support of paddle sports.