Canoecopia was one of those Midwest myths I’d heard of, but didn’t really know too much about. With an eye towards expanding our paddling repertoire, it came on my radar again this year. I got intrigued, did a little research, and, once my adventure buddy came on board, decided to attend.


Rutabaga Paddlesports is the organizer of Canoecopia and calls it the “World’s Largest Paddling Expo!” For more than 35 years, Rutabaga has been selling, renting, and fixing canoes, kayaks, and SUPs. More than just a store, they also provide hands-on education and community events.

Walking up to the Alliant Energy Center, we were distracted (SQUIRREL!) by the Small Campers Expo and went inside to see what we could see. SO many great little (and not so little) camping trailers that it was hard to break away and go to the other building which housed Canoecopia. Our only regret was that we didn’t get to take a close look at the new Airstream Basecamp, as there were too many people crowded around.

Once inside, we finagled our way to the Customer Service desk to pick up a promised Media Pass, which turned out to be non-existent. Daily passes were provided instead, which did the trick just as well. Thanks again, Darren! Stopping to look around, it was a bit overwhelming, both from the number of booths and from the number of people. It was crowded! Sticking to our Saturday plan, we cruised the aisles and mostly looked in preparation for Sunday, which was to be our Funday of hands-on experiences. Walking all those booths really took it out of us, so we gratefully headed back to our hotel, which handily was within walking distance of the show.


A dinner and short pool session later (it was cold!), we lay on the bed watching some “Diesel Brothers” reruns and planning our next day. With the daylight saving time time change and a later start (10:00 AM) for Canoecopia, we knew we’d be able to relax the morning away.

Which is exactly what we did. Breakfast, some reading and snoozing, more pool time (only the Little Worker, it was just too cold for me to want to get wet), and a bit of TV got us to the point where it was time to head over to the Show.

We first found the pool, where some on-water demonstrations were planned, then headed back to the main hall to get our paddling jones on. Pretty much every canoe or kayak sitting on the floor was fair game to be sat in or on, and we talked to a lot of the vendors about what made their products unique or special. Canoecopia really showed us up as paddling novices – there are so many products and companies we’d never heard of, and my wallet was itching to be released and utilized lavishly.


Which brought up a strange conundrum to me. It felt strange to be shopping for his whole shebang indoors. This event  was just begging to be hosted waterside somewhere, where kayaks, canoes, and SUPs could be launched and tested in the environment they were designed for. Still, it was clear that people were enjoying the special sales and were caught up in the general enthusiasm of the show – I know we were.

While I’m not sure that we would need 2 days again, this is definitely an event I could see going back to, with a special emphasis on checking out the speakers and pool demonstrations. We sat in briefly for 2 speakers, but a 6 year old has only a certain tolerance for that sort of thing, especially with the pool awaiting. Pool demonstrations went over a bit better for him, at least he seemed more interested and not in as much of a hurry to leave.

[*This was also the site of the first annual Paddlesports Retailer, a show for those in the business – totally different than Canoecopia, it was interesting to get more time with the people I met with.]


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