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What Are You Doing This Summer?

We’ve got 37 awesome ideas.
By Tara Behan, Shannon Hallamyer and Emily Riley
Page 2
 

Setting Sail

Out on Elf with skipper Rick Carrion.
By J.F. Pirro
Page 5
 

Real-World Education

Summer programs approach learning with innovation.
By J.F. Pirro
Page 6
 

Slam Dunk

A local sports organization gives kids a jump on summer fun.
By J.F. Pirro
Page 7
 

Current Events

The 105-year-old Philadelphia Canoe Club carries a boatload of great memories—some yet to come.  By J.F. Pirro
Page 8

 

 

Sesame Place celebrates 30 years. More below.What Are You Doing This Summer?

We’ve got 37 awesome ideas.
By Tara Behan, Shannon Hallamyer and
Emily Riley


JUNE

Ongoing: When the weather gets hot, there’s nothing more refreshing than a leisurely float down the Brandywine River by canoe, kayak or tube. Or, if you prefer to take a plunge, there are a number of swimming spots. Just look for the signs as you drive north on Route 100 from Chadds Ford. Thebrandywine.com.

Ongoing: The Phillies and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation have teamed up to launch the “Phanatic Around Town” public art project. Search the city for 20 Phillie Phanatic statues painted by local artists. Visitphilly.com.

One of the Phanatic statues to be found around Philly.June 3: Tonight at 6:30 p.m., West Chester kicks off its monthly Swingin’ Summer Thursdays on Gay Street between High and Darlington. All-ages entertainment includes big bands, crafters, clowns, jugglers and plenty of food. Join the fun every first Thursday through September. Downtownwestchester.com.

June 5: Get a bird’s-eye view of downtown West Chester at the seventh annual Up on the Roof event atop the Bicentennial Garage. This fundraiser for the West Chester Downtown Foundation and the West Chester Business Improvement District features a sampling of some of the best cuisine in West Chester, along with an open bar and the event’s signature Rooftop Martini. $75. Downtownwestchester.com.

June 6: Come one, come all to the hilly streets of Manayunk to cheer on—and ring your cowbells for—the participants of the 26th annual TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, the largest single-day, all-professional bicycle race in the country. Procyclingtour.com.

The State Street Blues Stroll on June 13June 6: Sesame Place—the only theme park in the nation based entirely on the beloved kids’ show—turns 30 this year. And there’s a host of events throughout the summer to celebrate. First up is a June 6 birthday bash to honor everyone’s favorite meanie, Oscar the Grouch. 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne; (215) 752-7070, sesameplace.com.

June 11-13: Wine enthusiast will savor Brandywine Valley Wine Camp, a weekend-long, behind-the-scenes look at four area wineries that also includes lodging, meals and complimentary admission to several area attractions. (800) 566-0109, brandywinevalley.com.

June 12: North Wayne Avenue goes into street fair mode for the annual Land Rover Main Line Jazz & Food Festival. Spend the day in downtown Wayne enjoying live music, food vendors and local retail offerings. Mainlinejazz.com.

June 13: At downtown Media’s ninth annual State Street Blues Stroll, more than 20 venues host 24 bands from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Kids have their chance to get the blues at 6:30 p.m., when Catfish Hodge performs songs from its award-winning children’s album, Catfish Pond, at the Keystone Bank/Plum Street Mall Stage. $20-$25. Statestreetblues.com.

Fatherfest at the American
 Helicopter Museum and Education Center on June 20June 20: Give dear old Dad a day he’ll remember at the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center’s Fatherfest. This guys’ day includes everything from helicopter rides and antique cars to motorcycles and food. 1220 American Blvd., West Chester; (610) 436-9600, helicoptermuseum.org.

June 23: Check out the impressive collection of classic autos at the seventh annual UBS Motor Cars Under the Stars, benefiting the United Cerebral Palsy of Philadelphia & Vicinity. This year’s event will be held at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. 118-128 N. Broad St., Philadelphia; (215) 248-7609, ucpphila.org.
  

July events on page 3 …

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JULY

Ongoing: Held two Saturdays a month, “Salsa in the Suburbs” is more than salsa—it’s cha-cha, merengue and bachata, too. Complimentary lessons 8:30-9:30 p.m. BYOB. 8 p.m. $10-$12. Conference and Social Center at St. Luke’s, 35 N. Malin Road, Broomall; (610) 800-8182, salsainthesuburbs.com.

“Out on a Limb” at Morris Arboretum. (Photo by Herb White)July 3: A permanent fixture at Morris Arboretum celebrates its first birthday. The 450-foot canopy walk known as “Out on a Limb” stretches through the trees 50 feet above ground. Birthday cake and music are on the menu. 1-3 p.m. Free with admission. 100 E. Northwestern Ave., Philadelphia; (215) 247-5777, morrisarboretum.org.

July 4: The country’s ultimate 234th birthday party, Wawa Welcome America! kicks off with a 10 a.m. Independence Day ceremony lead
by Mayor Michael Nutter and other local dignitaries at Independence Hall. Next up is the 11 a.m. Independence Day Parade, followed by the Party on the Parkway, which features family-friendly entertainment, live music, food and (of course) fireworks. Welcomeamerica.com.

Celebrate our country's 234th birthday with "Wawa Welcome America!" through July 4.July 6: For all the Burt Bacharach lovers out there, Act II Playhouse offers Burt & Me, the musical comedy about two high school sweethearts brought together by songs like “What the World Needs Now” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” But after a college breakup, can the music bring the couple back together? Thru Aug. 1. $25-$35. 56 E. Butler Ave., Ambler; (215) 654-0200, act2.org.

July 7: The Secret of Sherlock Holmes explores the deep and loyal friendship between Watson and Holmes—and the mystery that almost ended it. Thru Aug. 8. $28-$48. People’s Light and Theatre, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern; (610) 644-3500, peopleslight.org.

July 7-21: The Radnor Summer Concert Series begins July 7 with dancing, music and more at the Irish Music Festival. Later in the month, it’s the kid-friendly tunes of Mr. Dave the Music Guy (July 14) and old-school rock for all ages with Rocket 88 (July 21). Free. Various locations; (610) 688-5600, radnor.com.

July 10: Chill out the old-fashioned way at the Mill at Anselma’s Ice Cream Making in Early America! with 18th-century-style demonstrations. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $5/adults, $4/seniors, $3/ages 6-17, kids under 6 and military members free. 1730 Conestoga Road, Chester Springs; (610) 827-1906, anselmamill.org.

Walk with the dinosaurs July 14-18.July 14-18: If it walks like a dinosaur and roars like a dinosaur, it must be a dinosaur, right? See for yourself at Walking with Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular, featuring 15 life-size moving dinosaurs created by world-renowned designers. $19.50-$69.50. Wachovia Center, 3601 S. Broad St., Philadelphia; (800) 298-4200, dinoxing.com.

July 15-17: More than 100 improvisers will converge in Philly for the 26th annual ComedySportz World Championship. The event is run like a sports tournament, with teams competing for points (laughs), and referees calling fouls for bad puns and the like. The championship match is Saturday night. 7 and 9:30 p.m. $15-$100. World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia; (215) 222-1400, worldcafelive.com.

The Woody Plant Conference returns July 16.July 16: The 2010 Woody Plant Conference offers a smörgåsbord of insight and information for ardent gardeners and horticulturists. Learn about everything from dysfunctional root systems to the diversity of new trees–and get a free pass to Chanticleer Garden, Longwood Gardens, Morris Arboretum and Tyler Arboretum for the following weekend. 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, 500 College Ave., Swarthmore, woodyplantconference.org.

July 22: The Chester County Art Association welcomes The Blue Sky to its Free Summer Concert Series. Join fellow music lovers on the back patio for this BYOPB (bring your own picnic basket) event. 6-8 p.m. 100 N. Bradford Ave., West Chester; (610) 696-5600, chestercountyarts.org.

July 29: If we do say so ourselves, Main Line Today’s Best of the Main Line and Western Suburbs Party is the hottest charity event of the summer—just ask the thousands who attend annually. The event features live music, food and drink from 80-some winners, a silent auction, and surprise appearances from local celebs. 6:30-9 p.m.; preview party 5 p.m. $40-$75. Drexelbrook Catering and Corporate Events Center, 4700 Drexelbrook Drive, Drexel Hill, (610) 325-4630. Click here for more information.
 

August events on page 4 …

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AUGUST

The Bryn Mawr Film Institute screens "Siegfried."Aug. 1: Filmed at Spain’s Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts, Wagner’s Siegfried will be screened in high-definition at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, preceded by a noon discussion with the Opera Company of Philadelphia. 1 p.m. $25. 824 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 527-9898, brynmawrfilm.org.

Aug. 1: Rose Tree Park begins its Delaware County Summer Festival in mid-June, but August promises a great selection of live music acts, including a Neil Diamond tribute band, funk-infused Special Blendz and the orchestra stylings of Chico’s Vibe. Thru Aug. 15. Free. 7:30 p.m. Route 252 and Rose Tree Road, Media; (610) 891-4000, co.delaware.pa.us/summer/index.html.

Aug. 2: A new addition to the anatomical oddities and medical anomalies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, the Corporeal Manifestations exhibit features the work of 11 ceramic artists who’ve translated physiological and psychological human experiences into thought-provoking sculptures. $10-$14. 19 S. 22nd St., Philadelphia; (215) 563-3737, collphyphil.org.

Aug. 2-7: Enjoy livestock shows, tug-o-wars, carnival rides and more at the Goshen Country Fair. Chocoholics won’t want to miss this year’s Hershey Cocoa Classic baking contests, which begin at 8 p.m. on Aug. 5 and ends the following day with an auction of the top five confections. 1320 Park Ave., West Chester; (610) 430-1554, goshencountryfair.org.

The Mütter Museum's "Corporeal Manifestations" exhibit, opening Aug. 2.Aug. 3-24: The Colonial Theatre kicks off a month’s worth of great kids’ shows with an Aug. 3 movie night. Aug. 10 offers the balloon artistry of Guinness record-holder John Cassidy. On Aug. 24, performance artist troupe Zany Umbrella Circus performs its award-winning “Beppe’s Elephant,” a Dumbo-like tale suitable for ages 4 and up. 10:30 a.m. $8 or $7 in advance. 227 Bridge St., Phoenixville; (610) 917-1228, thecolonialtheatre.org.

Aug. 7: The Fred Hall Dixieland Jazz Band brings the big-city electricity of New York and Baltimore to the Bryn Mawr Gazebo, with the music of the Temptations, Aretha Franklin and more. $10 donation; kids 16 and under free. 9 S. Bryn Mawr Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 864-4303, brynmawrtwilightconcerts.com.

Aug. 7: At the Philadelphia Zoo’s Sunset Safari – Pajamarama, kids enjoy performances, hands-on activities and more as the animals head to bed. Free with admission. 3400 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia; (215) 243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org.

The Gran Fondo Colnago comes to Philly on Aug. 8.Aug. 8: Three routes, ranging in length from 31 to 105 miles, will keep recreational and competitive amateur cyclists busy at Gran Fondo Colnago Philadelphia. Proceeds benefit the American Melanoma Foundation. 7 a.m.-5 p.m. $99/rider, $190/tandem team. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Ben Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia; granfondophiladelphia.com.

Aug. 20-22: The largest bead and jewelry show on the East Coast, the Philly Bead Fest offers dozens of vendors and a wide variety of workshops. $12-$16 bazaar admission; workshops $115 and up. Valley Forge Convention Center, 1160 First Ave., King of Prussia; (610) 232-5718, beadfest.com.

Aug. 28: Phoenixville Bike Day is for more than just Harley enthusiasts. Event-goers can sample fare from 20-plus restaurants, enjoy four live bands and even do a little shopping on the side. Free. Noon-6 p.m. Bridge Street, Phoenixville; (610) 608-4067, phoenixvillebikeday.com.
 

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Skipper Rick Carrion works the sails of "Elf."

Setting Sail

Out on Elf with skipper Rick Carrion.
By J.F. Pirro


As the steward of Elf, America’s oldest active racing yacht, Rick Carrion describes his unrelenting passion as both a marriage and madness. Now that he’s restored the 30-foot wooden cutter to her 1888 maritime majesty, she’s once again gracing North American waters.

“I want to share her with the world,” says Carrion, a graduate of the Church Farm School in Exton. “But I’m a dreamer at heart, quite honestly.”

Elf will be on display June 15-July 1 at the Independence Seaport Museum at Penn’s Landing, and then will return to the Chesapeake Bay for a summer of races and yacht club events. For her second season back afloat, Carrion will focus on developing a highly trained crew, attracting corporate sponsors and developing a chef’s show aboard, Cooking Full Tilt with Captain Rick.

Boston’s George Lawley & Sons built Elf for William H. Wilkinson, a rigging innovator, for $3,500. It was just after the yard had built—or contributed to—three America’s Cup winners. Yet, two years later, Elf was sold to Henry Howard for $2,000. He once sailed her from Marblehead, Mass., to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

By the time Carrion paid $1,500 for Elf in 1971, her rich history was lost at sea—or somewhere. Carrion bought the yacht as the dilapidated Flying High, a name he changed to Paz, (Spanish for “peace”). He went back to Elf in 1975 when he unearthed her pedigree. A 17-year, $500,000 restoration later, Elf’s insurance/replacement value is a healthy $1.2 million. She’s now on the National Register of Historic Places.

"Elf" in action.Flying High was ready for scuttle before Carrion found her on a summer job at the Granary Docks on the Sassafras River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. At 19, the involved parties required his mother’s approval. Carrion, whose dad died when he was 12, used his wristwatch for collateral, set aside his fall semester tuition for Salisbury State and returned with Mom. “It was a damn good thing she didn’t have a clue about boats,” he says. “I was young and dumb. I had no idea what I was getting into.”

With a seventh-grade “shop” education in a course he earned a C in, his longest and most rewarding journey had begun. The third year, he found the structural beam with Elf’s original documentation numbers—hidden by a beam sistered to it for support. “It’s why no one knew her pedigree,” says Carrion.

The inherited title listed her date of origin as unknown. His search for collateral evidence landed him at 16 maritime organizations, mostly on school vacations during his 30 years as an earth and environmental science teacher at Elkton High School in Maryland. Carrion found Elf’s original information in the National Archives, along with a treasure trove of circa-1888 to 1897 photos by Nathaniel Stebbins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum and builder’s notes at the Mystic Seaport Museum. All were essential to her authentic restoration.

“I couldn’t believe she was the boat I’d bought,” Carrion says. “It was the first time I thought I’d like to restore her myself.”

With the additional aid of photos by Gus and Vida Van Lennep, who owned Elf from 1932 to 1943, Carrion tailored every dimension to within a quarter to an eighth of an inch. “We feel really good about that,” he says.

Still, Carrion couldn’t have restored Elf without forming the Classic Yacht Restoration Guild. He also had access to 16 different woods from trees on his 120-acre farm in Earleville, Md.—and permission to cut timber from 2,000 neighboring acres. He even had the governor’s OK to use white oak from Maryland’s Fair Hill Natural Resource Site.

Carrion eventually donated Elf to the nonprofit guild he headed, which had 350 supporters at its height. Many committed financial resources and “tens of thousands of volunteer hours,” he says.

The expertise of his master boatwright, Graham Ero, was invaluable. So was his relationship with the Van Lenneps, founders of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md. Carrion all but adopted them as grandparents. Though she died at 98, Vida Van Lennep lived long enough for Carrion to christen a tender (dinghy) in her name. It’s used to paddle out to Elf when she’s docked at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum—the yacht’s official home.

If not obsessive, Carrion was proactive in Elf’s restoration. Think 14 coats of varnish on the deck beams before installation, and 18 coats on the mast and spars. For years, whenever he found really good pieces of wood—like the burled cherry he used in the cabin—he set them aside.

Carrion used black locust primarily for structure. In some cases, he rejected up to seven pieces of wood in an effort to find the perfect one. Elf’s keelson is the only original piece left. “She’s well-founded and well put together,” he says. “People asked me why we just didn’t use epoxy? This wasn’t an epoxy job—it was a total rebuild.”

Elf’s width measures 12 feet. Her hull on deck is 35 feet, but her total length is 65 feet. Elf’s topsail reaches 73 feet—3 inches above the water. There are 2,300 square feet of sails without the spinnaker, which adds another 1,000-plus square feet of canvas. She weighs an astonishing 26,000 pounds, including 10,000 pounds of external lead ballast.

This fall, Carrion hopes to initiate the Elf Classic, a unique 1888-era race he’ll run from Annapolis, Md., to St. Michaels as a fundraiser for the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. “It will be a gentlemen’s race—no shouting,” he assures. “But Elf sails like a rocket. Some have asked if we have our engine on. We ask if they have their anchor in.”

The 24-mile Elf Classic will begin with a shotgun start after a captains’ meeting. Then the yachtsmen will scurry to their tender, row out to their vessels, and raise their sails and anchors. At St. Michaels, they’ll anchor, row ashore and sign in at the museum’s Tolchester Band Stand to finish the race.

In mythology and folkore, an elf is an imaginary howling banshee woods animal. Carrion carved one out of cherry for Elf’s bow figurehead, even using real fox teeth in its mouth.

“When they would hear an elf, you would shiver,” he says. “Well, when you would see Elf on a course, everyone else would shiver.”

To learn more, visit cyrg.org. For more pictures of Rick Carrion and Elf on the water, click here.
 

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Real-World Education

ESF’s new Innovation Project brings a breath of fresh air to kids' summer programs.

Summer programs approach learning with innovation.
By J.F. Pirro


In one class, a Ponzi scheme gone awry will lead to the suspicious disappearance of a whistleblower and the tragic death of an investor. Campers will then head to a real court in Philadelphia to observe and ask questions of actual attorneys and judges before staging their own trial.

“The course takes kids out of the classroom and helps them build understanding through a granular, organic approach—a real-world immersion in real-world issues,” says Mariandl Hufford, director of education and program development at ESF, the cutting-edge Bryn Mawr-based camp company. “This is a concept with traction. Education is changing because the world is changing.”

That’s the foward-thinking premise behind ESF’s new—summer programs running at the Haverford School, Chestnut Hill College, and New Jersey’s Moorestown Friends and Lawrenceville schools July 12-30. To foster creativity, campers ages 10-16 work in teams to find solutions to real-life issues. Fifth- and sixth-graders choose between “Animal Advocacy” and “Eco-Stewardship and Design”; seventh- and eighth-graders opt for “Venturing into Forensics and Design”; ninth- and 10th-graders select “Law and Order” or “Journalism 2.0.”

Each major emphasizes a problem-solving model called “design thinking,” with campers presenting their solution to a panel of field experts. “We’re giving everyone an introduction to an education they’re not getting in school in a low-stakes environment because there isn’t any grading,” says Hufford. “We’re also connecting them to the community, and fostering a year-round portal and forums.”

Participants also select three minors—one per week—to focus on for one hour a day. Choices include digital photography, building a kite, creating a superhero, wilderness survival and acting.

The Innovation Project’s format is validated in Daniel Pink’s acclaimed book, A Whole New Mind, and a bevy of industry models that stress creative problem solving based on intrinsic motivation and empathetic response. ESF has picked the West Coast brains of IDEO, the Decision Education Foundation and the Stanford Institute of Design, along with Destination Imagination in Cherry Hill, N.J.

The programs will involve professionals like “Law and Order” teacher Gina Smith, an attorney, a former prosecutor and a University of Pennsylvania Law School adjunct professor.

“We’re asking all our professionals, ‘If you were designing an introduction to your field, what would you be teaching?’” says Hufford. “It’s been humbling to see how excited the pros have been. Some are giving up part of their summer.”

In 2011, plans are to bring the Innovation Project to ESF’s successful Dream Camps, with locations at Philadelphia’s Girard College and Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

To learn more about the Innovation Project, visit esfcamps.com/innovation_project.
 

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The Narberth Girls Basketball League’s Linda and David O’Keefe. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)Slam Dunk

A summer sports staple gives young basketball players a jump on fun.
By J.F. Pirro


Linda O’Keefe was born into it. Her husband David married into it. Now, the two of them are it—the Narberth Girls Basketball League, which last year celebrated its 25th summer.

David is actually the odd man out. He’s only been involved 15 of the 25 years. Linda’s parents, Joe and Eleanor D’Antonio, started the league in 1985. Linda’s team won a championship that first year, though her dad wasn’t the coach. He coached another NGBBL team, and would later go on to win a PIAA Class 2A title with Merion Mercy Academy in 1995.

These days, Narberth’s O’Keefes head a talented staff and coach in the league, which features an equal split of 20 teams into a senior and junior division. NGBBL enrollment peaked at 390 girls in 2006-07, and has since leveled off at about 300 girls. David put up the website and converted to online registration. For years, Eleanor typed every roster and schedule.

The O’Keefes have reason to remain involved for the long haul: Their oldest daughter, Natalie, is 10. She’ll enter the league in two years. Eleanor, her grandmother’s namesake, is 7. A third daughter, Erin, is a year old. “We’re close to having an entire basketball team,” says David.

Their 11-year-old son, David, can’t play with the girls. But next year, he’ll join the Narberth Boys Basketball League, which plays on the opposite court at the Narberth Playground the same nights as the girls—Monday to Thursday from the end of May until the end of July. “The league has always been solid because there are no other outdoor summer leagues,” says Ardmore’s Lauren Friel, who’s played and coached in the NGBBL since its inception. “Now, I have friends who coach and ref. It’s a social opportunity, a gathering. It’s a chance to reminisce with other basketball junkies.”

Wilt Chamberlain played in the boys’ league—which, like the girls’, has never had geographical drawing boundaries. “My father still tells me stories about Wilt playing at Narberth,” Friel says. “When you go ‘down Narberth,’ you always know you can catch a good game.”

Each April, there’s a draft, so there aren’t any dynasties. All teams make a single-elimination playoff tournament after a nine-game regular season. Only one team has ever gone undefeated: Linda O’Keefe’s sister Loretta’s 1989 team. Team names reflect their sponsors, some of them longtime supporters like Duffy’s Real Estate in Narberth. Of the 20 current coaches, as many as 15 once played in the league. Younger NGBBL graduates frequently volunteer as assistant coaches. Bobbi Morgan, who coaches at Haverford College, will mentor her 26th NGBBL team this summer.

Friel, a reading specialist at Penn Valley Elementary School, has also coached the girls’ basketball teams at Radnor, Lower Merion and Cardinal O’Hara high schools. Her family included five basketball-playing sisters, three of whom were young enough to play in NGBBL. All three earned basketball scholarships: Lauren went to St. Francis College; her twin, Lynne Friel Brown, the longtime girls’ coach at Harriton High, and their younger sister, Sara Friel Olender, both played at Fairfield University.

Lauren and Lynne were in the summer before their junior year at Archbishop Carroll in Radnor when the NGBBL began. In their second summer, they recruited Dawn Staley, a future Olympian and former Temple University women’s coach. Others of status with Main Line roots played in the NGBBL, too. Shanette Lee, the star recruit on Joe D’Antonio’s Merion Mercy state title team, went on to play at Villanova University, where she’s now an assistant coach. Sarah Howe played at Florida University, Lynn Dougherty for Penn State, Mimi Riley for Villanova and Margaret Elderton for Drexel. Molly Hanlon played all seven years in the NGBBL and then at Lower Merion High School. She’s now attending Holy Family University on a basketball scholarship.

“It’s something to say you played here,” says Friel, who’s also coached at the Division III collegiate level and with the Philadelphia Belles AAU team.

Then there’s Linda O’Keefe’s senior league team, and David’s junior league coaching. “The purpose has definitely not changed,” says David. “We’re here to develop players and encourage them to have fun playing without so much pressure. There’s more pressure on the parents to get them to the games on time.”

For Friel, it is team sponsor Charles Friel Landscaping—her father’s business—that applies the pressure. “He always asks what our record is,” she says.

To learn more, visit ngbbl.com.
 

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Rosemary Rau (left) and Susan Johnson of the Philadelphia Canoe Club. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)Current Events

The 105-year-old Philadelphia Canoe Club carries a boatload of great memories—some yet to come.
By J.F. Pirro


Each summer, the Philadelphia Canoe Club’s annual open house offers visitors an opportunity to canoe the flat waters of the Schuylkill River, kayak in a low-key ride on the Wissahickon Creek, or both.

This July 11, at its clubhouse and grounds along Ridge Avenue at the confluence of the Wissahickon Creek and Schuylkill River, there will be hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream and water ice—the flavored kind, not the river variety that paddlers must work through on early spring trips. PCC will host paddling vendors and free up members to answer questions about lessons and membership.

Merion Station’s Brad Harrison is proof that the open houses work. Twenty-two years ago, that’s how the club landed his devotion. He instantly merged two loves—canoes and friendly people—took lessons, joined and landed on the board of directors. For three years, he was the club’s quartermaster in charge of maintenance. Now, he’s vice commodore to Rosemary Rau. “We’re a family,” he says. “Not the kind you have after you marry, but the kind that looks after you on the river—those you get closer to because your life depends on them.”

Now, all of Harrison’s friends are PCC members, whether they’re canoeing or kayaking, cleaning up a river or attending a dance or a Thursday night potluck dinner. Harrison, 70, lives three doors from fellow member Rich Widmann. They often carpool to the club. “It’s social,” Harrison says. “A lot of it is having our own building—ownership. Most canoe clubs don’t have a building.”

PCC uses the last surviving mill of the 30 or so that once lined the banks of the Wissahickon Creek. It was built around 1750. “[Other paddlers] meet through the Web,” Harrison says. “We meet at the club.”

For Wynnewood’s Susan Johnson, the PCC has become a “home away from home.” The 63-year-old rowed recreationally. But once she learned how to canoe properly, and her teenage daughter turned 21, it dawned on her. “My job is done—and I found PCC,” she says.

Historically, the 105-year-old club produced Olympic qualifiers when canoeing was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1936. The first U.S. Team qualifiers were held on the Schuylkill; Philadelphia’s Albert A. Bauer was the coach. PCC’s Russell McNutt and Robert Graf were two of the 10 Olympians in Berlin that year. In 1952 and 1956, the club’s Frank Krick—a four-time Olympian, though not all with PCC—teamed with John Haas.

Today, PCC consists of mostly whitewater kayakers. Stroke and safety instruction are both stressed. Members are well versed in both, along with wilderness emergency medicine. “It’s not just how-to lessons, but lessons about the sport,” says Johnson. “And how, if you’re prepared, you’re OK.”

Johnson now engages in canoe races like the Adirondack Canoe Classic, a three-day, 90-mile race the weekend after Labor Day. “There’s just something about people who paddle,” she says. “There are just a lot of people I like in one location. We all get along.”

The club pays a dollar in annual rent for the Fairmount Park building. When the Schuylkill floods, members shovel out the mud. This spring, members built a dock to replace the one swept away in a storm.

Through PCC, there are both formal and informal trips. In March, Harrison returned from two weeks in the Florida Keys with club members. On weekends, sometimes there’s a trip both days. Wednesdays in season, the club hosts a night paddle for beginner whitewater paddlers. Paddlers portage around Flat Rock Dam in Gladwyne, then continue downstream to the club. Thursday nights are for flat-water canoeists and kayakers, who paddle from the clubhouse and back for a potluck dinner.

Other than the Schuylkill and the Wissahickon, the club frequents the Delaware, the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the Tohickon Creek and Lake Nockamixon in Bucks County, the Lehigh River every other weekend, the Adirondacks, and the Brandywine (the tamest of the bunch).

The not-for-profit PCC is a member of the American Canoe Association. Membership requires a nomination and approval process, though all are welcome at meetings and events.

To learn more, visit philacanoe.org.
 

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