My wife Renee and I attended our first assembly this past week. We thought we would have an enjoyable time, perhaps meet a few folks, and learn a few things about wooden canoes making the 18 hour drive worthwhile. But our week went beyond that. Upon arrival we were issued blue name tags rather than white because it was our first assembly. Immediately folks began walking up to us and welcoming us. And not just a quick “Hello” either- people actually took time to explain things and help us. When I pulled the trailer around and set our two canoes down folks were there offering to help unload them. As I parked the car, multiple people offered to help Renee move the canoes over to the green before I could even walk back. We camped at Buck Pond so we didn’t eat all our meals at the event. But when we did we looked for an empty table as we only knew a few folks from the Upper Michigan chapter and we didn’t want to intrude on anybody’s visiting with old friends. More than once, folks moved over to sit with us. We had many enjoyable conversations during meals and got to meet so many wonderful and interesting people (and this is not easy for an introvert). We had planned to spend a lot of time at the campground and exploring the Adirondacks as neither of us had ever been there before. But instead we did a bunch of activities right at the assembly- Renee spent part of an afternoon making a lanyard, and we both worked with Caleb making our own paddles for a day and a half. We even took a beginning paddling class and after 29 years of myself paddling stern and Renee in the bow we switched spots in anticipation of her needing to help out some new folks we’re taking to the BWCA in a couple of weeks. Now, folks with more wisdom than ourselves might have realized that with a group of people in lawn chairs watching from the shore, and taking the first-ever actual paddling lesson after 29 years of “just do it”, it might not be the best time to make such a switch. And it became clear as we paddled out into the lake for the first time in our new spots that Renee had no idea how to steer the canoe. When we awkwardly worked our way back to the shore I was ready to give up on the change but Caleb talked us (okay, to be perfectly honest- me) down from the ledge very patiently and with a little trimming of the canoe and some instruction, Renee was able to guide us around the swimming area multiple times. We appreciate his- and so many others- generous sharing of their time and wisdom with us. We saw wonderful old canoes, beautiful wooden canoes, and canoes elegantly sailing the afternoon away on the blue lake in front of the assembly. We paddled both our canoes multiple times around Lower St. Regis Lake, asked folks with decades of experience with old canoes questions, and spent a morning picking blueberries next to a lovely little lake with a loon fishing the shallows next to us. At first we thought the auction was confusing with so many formats. But it was set up efficiently and we quickly made sense of how things worked. That morning I had told Renee that I felt I was going to end up with a canoe for my birthday and when I saw the charming 16’ Old Town with the raffle bucket in it I told her that it was clearly my birthday canoe. When they announced the ticket number and Renee said, “That’s you, you really did win it” I had to look at it twice just to be sure. We ended our stay at the event by paddling my “new” canoe over to the beach area with new friends singing “Happy Birthday” from the shore. We even met new people at the very end as they offered to help us load the canoe upon the top rack of the trailer. Events like this don’t just happen. There were a LOT of people that put generous amounts of their time and effort into planning and setting this up. Uncounted hours of work by others went into our enjoyable trip. To those of you who worked in the booths, ran the auction, organized, collected, donated, welcomed new folks like us, wrote emails, answered questions, called, set-up, tore-down, presented, transported, planned, and volunteered. We thank you and appreciate your efforts. Well done.