Midwest Canoe Symposium 2017

By Kathleen Pichola
“It’s been all summer coming
Canoeing at its best
But now the wait is over
Cause you’re finally at Midwest.”

“Burma Shave.”  This phrase was left off of the delightful greeting that met participants as they drove down the dusty trail into Camp Butler for the 2017 Midwest Canoe Symposium. Other than that omission, it was a great way to begin the weekend which has the fun, intimate feel of a family reunion. Thank you to Bruce Kemp, the poet, the poster maker and the poster poster.


Thank you to Cathy and Tracy Hunt for organizing our initial dinner at Fisher’s in Peninsula.  Twenty of us converged all at once on this favorite eatery and our waitress, Elaina, handled us like the champ that she is.  Organized, competent and totally in control of the task at hand, Elaina corralled us, made announcements in a voice that all could hear and let us know she was not to be trifled with. She then took our orders and delivered them in a correct, timely and friendly manner. Three cheers for a job well done. 

Thank you to the Hunts for making it so easy for us to come together to break bread and begin catching up with each other since our last symposium.

Thank you to David Gendler for raiding his garden to bring the gorgeous dahlias which graced the tables in the Atwood Lodge.  A bright and beautiful softness filled the otherwise noisy, crowded dining hall.  It was reported by the Chefs that David also brought “spectacular green onions” to spice up the already fabulous food.  David was new to MCS this year, and is a long time river paddler from Michigan.  Thank you, and welcome to our paddling family!

Surprise Guests

As the tantalizing aroma of fresh garden vegetables and all manner of lasagnas filled the dining hall, unexpected guests began pouring in. Yours truly and her partner in crime (Jim Lewis) arrived just in time to say hello before setting up photo note card displays and tripods and camera angles. Randall Fields and Barb Klaer drove three hours from Athens just for dinner and camaraderie, and the exhibition of course! (Then they drove back home that night! That’s dedication.)

Tagging along as she always did when she was just a pup was their now grown up-graduated-from-college-full-time-employed daughter April with her fiancé, Jake!  How can that be? Rumor has it that Jake loved the exhibition enough to maybe give this freestyle thing a try next year.  Yea!  In addition to being a pup, April was and is a graceful, talented freestyle paddler in her own right and we are thrilled with all of her success and happiness.

Becky Sheeler also popped in at dinner time to visit with folks and to pick up an ultralight solo canoe from John Diller who owns Savage River Canoes.  With Bruce Kemp, Becky hosts the Western PA Solo Canoe Rendezvous the first weekend in June at Cooper’s Lake, in western PA. 

Lost and Found

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Bob Mravetz’s garlic farming this year. As I understand it, he felt too tied down to the earth with not enough freedom to roam on rivers, lakes and ponds. Thank you Bob, for the many years that you supplied so many of us with the fruits of your labors. Your garlic will be missed but we’re happy to have you more available to paddle and travel to your hearts content.

On the other hand, welcome to Mike Venero’s Maple syrup from Minnesota.  I’m not sure if garlic is an even trade for syrup, but it is a delightful addition.  Thank you for your efforts and for sharing (and for bringing Mickey with you).

Plumbing problem?

Not sure if you heard that freestylers had a clogging situation Saturday evening.  No, it had nothing to do with plumbing.  During the evening musical gathering, our own illustrious Elaine Mravetz commented that she would love to be able to clog if only she had the right music.  Alas, what to do?

As rumor has it, Paul Klonowski picked up his banjo and John Diller opened his box of harmonicas, one in every key, and soon the clippity clop clop of Elaine Mravetz and Molly Gurien clogging entertained the crowd. They danced to a full and delighted house.

When peering out from behind his guitar at the capacity audience, Bruce Kemp noted,  “A crowd attracts a crowd.’’  …and the Amorphous Freestyle Canoe String Band played on, with Bruce, Molly, and Tim Burris playing guitars, John wailing on the harmonicas, and Paul playing the mandolin and banjo…  and they invite more musicians to join them!  

Moonlight Serenade

Another highlight, in addition to the fabulous food that our “Church Ladies” Diane Meckes and Karen Studd prepared, was the Friday evening candlelight paddle.  Cool evening, soft music, soft lights in the boats, mist rising on the water, and a lot of folks just enjoying the moments on water with an almost full moon above.  According to Elaine Mravetz, it was very well received.

Actual Paddling

In addition to the above delights, paddling actually did take place over the weekend in many forms and classes. Two highlights were Bob Mann updating his instructor certification with Robyn Lowenthal and our favorite newlyweds, Jim Satrape and Manon Paquet-Satrape taking instructor training for the first time this year.  Well done and welcome.  And a huge thank you to all of the instructors who are the essence of the symposium – a fun and fabulous learning experience.

 Unfortunately, in some people’s experience, the ACA invited kayakers to a certification class at the same time as MCS. Some called it “the invasion of the University of Akron.”   Better than body snatchers I’m guessing.

On a happier note, this was the third year for the poling class and the first year for stand up paddle boarding!  MCS continues to expand its horizons as well as paddling venues. Hurray!


Saturday evening, with perfect cool and sunny weather with little wind, thirteen freestylers entertained and amazed with ten routines; seven solo and three tandem.

Paul Klonowski/ Photo by Jim Lewis
Molly Gurien/ Photo by Jim Lewis

Paul Klonowski set a romantic tone with Summer of my Dreams, followed by Molly Gurien’s More than a Whisper.





Jim Satrape and Manon Paquet-Satrape/ Photo by Jim Lewis



Love was in the air as newlyweds Jim Satrape and Manon Paquet-Satrape performed for the first time to A Thousand Years, a routine they had planned to debut on their wedding day last year if not for the torrential rain that delayed that exhibition. This marriage must be working since they are still paddling in tandem, to music, with style and smiles. 


Anita LoVan & Bruce Kemp/ Photo by Jim Lewis






Anita & Bruce & the Granddaughters. Photo from Bruce’s collection…

To continue the romantic theme, Bruce Kemp and Anita LoVan performed to Hearts Overflowing, the song they played for the newlywed’s first dance last year. What a beautiful way to celebrate our fave couple’s first anniversary. (And thanks for bringing your grandkids.  It’s always great to have young people in attendance.)




Ron Young/ Photo by Jim Lewis
Steve Bulwicki/ Photo by Jim Lewis


Paddling solo, Ron Young continued the romance with Lay Down Beside Me while Steve Bulwicki, exhibiting for the first time at MCS, paddled us down a Road Less Travelled.  



Tim Burris/ Photo by Jim Lewis



Mickey Venero took us to Lala Land with City of Stars and Tim Burris had us tapping our toes with Would You Like to Learn to Dance, complete with air guitar and horn.





Bob & Elaine Mravetz/ Photo by Jim Lewis

After all this romance, Bob and Elaine brought the kid out in all of us with their always delightful Right Field. Marc Ornstein, complete with bow tie and bowler brought a fabulous evening to a close by reminding us that we can be young at any age with his When I’m 64.

Marc Ornstein/ Photo by Jim Lewis










Huge thanks to Paul Klonowski and Raphael Dominguez for their expert announcing of the exhibition. Raphael announced for the first two routines while Paul participated as a paddler. Then, rumor has it, Raphael grinningly reported that he got fired when Paul returned to his announcing duties.  Great job and thanks to both of you.  Thank you also to Ron Young for providing the PA system.

(L to R) Karen Studd, Diane Meckes, Executive Chefs Extraordinaire! Photo by Bruce Kemp

Executive Chefs (L to R) Karen Studd and Diane Meckes/ Photo by Bruce KempEnormous thanks to our illustrious organizers, Bob and Elaine Mravetz, who spend months taking care of every last detail so that the weekend runs smoothly for all.  And an additional shout out and extra special group hug for our wonderful Chefs, Diane Meckes and Karen Studd.  Thank you for your dedication to bringing us fresh, yummy and plentiful vittles throughout the weekend.

Elaine reported that we had a larger attendance this year, new faces and some returnees from long ago, bringing our head count to 60! Thank you to all for a fabulous, friendly, fun, learning-filled weekend!


Our parting inspiration comes from Randall Fields…

“You can dance with the river,
but you have to know the steps.” 

That’s why we have MCS!

See you on the water!

Thanks to Bob Mann, Steve Bulwicki, Ken Schneider, Elaine Mravetz, Linda Young, Randall Fields and Paul Klonowski for on the scene reporting for this missive.


See more Cross Post articles HERE