Press Releases

Optimism Reigns as Canoecopia Sees Record Attendance, Sales

Albert Einstein once said “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” The truth of this statement was highlighted at Canoecopia last weekend.

March 14, 2006


Madison, Wisconsin

Albert Einstein once said “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” The truth of this statement was highlighted at Canoecopia last weekend.

“By the traditional retail metrics, the best successes of Canoecopia can’t really be counted,” said Darren Bush, co-owner of Rutabaga, host of Canoecopia. “While we were up significantly in both sales and attendance, the things that really made Canoecopia special were not related to either.”

Bush cited Daniel Shepard, who bought himself a new kayak this weekend, becoming something of a celebrity Saturday afternoon. That’s because Daniel is ten years old, and saved his own money for a year and a half to pay cash his Old Town Rush, a sprayskirt, and a new paddle. “We were all so proud of him. This fine young man represents in a small way the future of our sport.”

Bush also cited a more somber but perhaps more heroic attendee. “A long-time Canoecopia attendee was seen shuffling around with a nasal cannula for oxygen and a large button that said Cancer Sucks. A friend of his on our staff pulled him aside to ask how he was doing. He is in hospice for pancreatic cancer, and is not expected to live through spring, but he wanted to see Canoecopia one more time so he loaded up on painkillers and checked himself out of hospice. That a man would spend some of his last days at our show was a true honor.”

Still, Rutabaga staffers are paying very close attention to the numbers two days post-Canoecopia. “We did set new attendance records, and correlated to that, sales records,” said Megan Pfeiffer, Canoecopia Event Coordinator. “We’re still tallying numbers from the weekend, but it was clear traffic was up. Saturday afternoon the fire marshal was concerned that we were over the building’s capacity.”

Sales receipts are still being tallied. “We lost a hard-drive during a critical process and it’s in the hard drive ER being resuscitated,” said Bush. “Even without it, we are still up significantly. It was a clear success.”

Most noticeable was a large increase in first-time attendees. “We did a lot of data mining and worked with some direct marketing experts to get the word out to people who are already prime paddlers, they just don’t know it yet,” said Darren Bush. “We also enjoyed a lot of positive local press, and our partnership with Entercom radio group helped spread the word locally.” New show sponsor Sierra Club was well represented by Sierra Magazine as well as Sierra Club National Outings and the local Sierra Club Chapter. “We look forward to working more with the Sierra Club in the coming years,” said Bush.

Automobiles were scattered throughout Canoecopia, but this year there were cars from numerous manufacturers…all cars that paddlers would love. “Being an Element owner, it was cool to see one on the floor all racked up and loaded with kayaks,” said Darren Bush. Cars from Audi, Volkswagen, Honda, Nissan, and other makers were all featured by Zimbrick of Madison, an auto group and vehicle sponsor of Canoecopia 2006. “We’re really interested in working with forward-thinking dealerships so we can all provide top-notch service for auto rack customers via RackHaus,” said Jeff Weidman, Rutabaga co-owner. “Canoecopia allowed the car guys to see what their cars look like when they’re properly accessorized.”

New partnerships contributed greatly to Canoecopia’s success this year. “It was great to see Shimano come on board with such a strong emphasis on kayak fishing,” said Weidman. Weidman was also delighted with our other continuing sponsors, Teva and Hooked on the Outdoors. “They bring a tremendous energy to Canoecopia.”

Nonprofit organizations also partnered with Canoecopia to increase awareness of their missions. For example, the River Alliance of Wisconsin graciously offered a free one-year membership to anyone purchasing a boat at Canoecopia. “We felt it was a good way to introduce a new paddler to the resources they will be using in a few weeks,” said River Alliance Vice Chair and Board Member Lindsay Wood-Davis. “We hope that these new paddlers will fall in love with the rivers of Wisconsin, regardless of where they live. New paddlers will protect what they love, and will paddle more because of it.”

Bush agrees that getting people on the water is the only way to grow participation. “We believe that if we all work cooperatively, paddlesports will grow, there is no doubt. Paddling offers so much for so little.”

Canoecopia attendees were welcomed by the hospitality business. “Many of our hotel contacts told us how the people that Canoecopia draws are ‘delightful’ and ‘low-maintenance.’ Given the nature of the paddling community, all I can say to that is ‘we knew that a long time ago.’”

When asked about the future of paddlesports, Bush is naturally optimistic. “The sales were good, and the traffic was good, no question. But we are all really excited about the intangibles…if you go by the number of people who hugged us and said ‘thanks for doing this,” paddlesports is in for a good year.”

For more information contact:

Darren Bush

608-223-9300 x 228