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The Schuylkill is more than just a large tributary of the Delaware River.

It is also the home of the Philadelphia Canoe Club, which had its Annual Open House and Regatta last Sunday.

"This Annual Open House is down by the [Schuylkill] River and it's such a loose atmosphere," said Ron Sable, a West Philadelphia native who has been canoeing for 25 years. "It's very enjoyable, scenic and there's great music. I look forward to it every year, and it's a great chance to meet people."

Despite less-than-perfect weather, the event -- held at the PCC clubhouse on Ridge Avenue in North Philadelphia -- drew many people, both members and non-members alike. This mix is characteristic of a typical PCC-sponsored event, as there is no membership requirement to participate in the club's activities.

The club, founded in 1905, holds the Annual Open House to make more people aware of what the club offers.

"There's river races, sampling boats and boat trips right out here on the quiet waters. No pony rides, though," joked 2001 membership chairperson Caroline Coleman.

A 1972 College graduate, Coleman found out at her first PCC meeting in November 1997 that the club -- 185 members strong and growing -- offered a community of people who had a common interest in something that she had enjoyed since her childhood.

"I had canoed as a kid and I loved to do it," Coleman said. "It was a return to what I loved."

And though their strokes differ -- the club's main interests are flatwater and whitewater canoeing, and whitewater and sea kayaking -- each member of the club is part of a larger whole.

"Our common thread is a love of water and a love to paddle, though our vehicles will differ," Coleman said.

PCC offers training programs, and has thus given people like Coleman -- who is now also a kayaker -- the opportunity to add to their knowledge of water sports.

Others come in as experienced canoers or kayakers, and the club offers trips every week to various rivers in the Mid-Atlantic, New England and Canada.

A man that has taken advantage of these trips is Jim Dannenberg, who joined the club 10 years ago when his son was commodore of PCC. A 1948 Penn Dental School alumnus and 50-year professor at his alma mater, Dannenberg has been a canoer all his life.

"This club is wonderful for flatwater canoers, which my wife Dena and I are, because it takes trips almost every week, mostly in the pine barrens, upper Schuylkill or various other places that are easy canoeing," said Dannenberg, who lives just 10 minutes away from PCC. "They take a shuttle, so we're always going downstream. The people are very friendly and like each other, so we have a good time."

And after all these years, Dannenberg has never strayed away from the sport.

"Canoeing gives you exercise on the water," Dannenberg said. "In the summer, I go up to a lake in the Adirondacks, and it's lake canoeing.

"It's the idea of the outdoors, and being with nature, in the woods and on the water."

And it's the common appreciation of nature and an enjoyment of each other's company amongst the members that has kept PCC going strong as the club's 100th anniversary rapidly approaches.

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