The mission of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce is to be the representative voice of county for-profit and non-profit businesses
in working to improve the county economy and to address pressing county socioeconomic issues.
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2019 Canoe Raffle
Each year, the Cook County (MN) Business & Civic Partnership raffles off a canoe and uses the proceeds to fund small grants (up to $1,000) to groups, business es and individuals to create small Great Places in Cook County.
A small Great Place might be a handicapped accessible picnic table, or a bench built and set out explicitly for pedestrians. We had a public ping-pong table for the lawn of the library one year, and it is still going strong; balls and paddles are available free on request within the library.
One project is a mural on the side of a building that will probably take eight years to complete. Each year the artist, Mila Horak, draws in pencil the paint-by-number outlines of a scene on weatherproof board. The public then is invited to paint in the numbered spaces during the annual Grand Marais Arts Festival.
You get the idea.
The Partnership is the 501c3 charitable foundation arm of the Cook County Chamber.
The canoe raffle, now in its third year, was the brainstorm of Jack Stone, a local businessman who owns Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply. This year he came up with the idea that we should build our own canoe – during a canoe-building class at North House Folk School. The course would be taught by Jeanne Bourquin of Bourquin Boats in Ely, Mn., and Tom Healy, one of the founders of North House.
Jack took the idea to North House, and they liked it. They waved the $2,750 tuition for the course and designated an artisan in residence, Josh Tolkan, the person who would oversee construction of the raffle canoe.
To take the course, you must have at least two people. Jack Stone solved that by paying a number of his employees to work on the canoe.
I donated four long days to the project myself and stopped in pretty much every day to see how things were progressing.
This is an intense 14-day project. Days typically stretched from 8:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night.
A wood-canvas canoe is an iconic craft in the North Woods. Its history goes back more than a century. It was the European approach to creating a craft that could equal the birchbark canoes crafted by the Ojibwe and other Native Americans. It is said to paddle quietly and track exceptionally well. It starts with ash ribs steamed and bent over a form, followed by thin cedar planks.
Our canoes had both white and red cedar. Once the ribs are attached, canvas is spread tightly over the frame. A special “filler” paint full of silica is then spread over the canvas and rubbed until it is dry and smooth, a process that takes two hours at least. Then the canoe is left to “cure” for a month, after which it is sanded inside and out, with the inside getting five coats of varnish, and the outside an equal number of coats of marine paint.
This project would not have been possible without the huge contributions from North House and from Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply. I did not get as many photos as I would have liked of the workers from Stone Harbor, including Jack Stone and especially Beth Poliquin, who devoted several days to the project.