How an Annual Canoe Raffle Benefits a Local Community

For three years running, a canoe raffle has helped residents provide “Small Great Places” in their small community of Grand Marais, Minnesota…

canoe raffle Grand Marais MN

What does a canoe have to do with community fundraising? Plenty, if that community is a major gateway into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness!

Grand Marais is the Perfect Setting for a Canoe Raffle

Canoe lovers descend on Grand Marais from spring thaw through the fall each year to take advantage of the BWCAW’s and Quetico’s world-class wilderness canoeing. Combine them with the other outdoor lovers who travel and live here, and you have the perfect audience for a canoe raffle.   

The idea was Jack Stone’s—owner of outdoor retailer and adventure tour company, Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply. He saw a raffle as a great way to raise grant money for the Cook County Business & Civic Partnership, the non-profit charitable partner of the local Chamber of Commerce.

The canoe is usually placed right in front of a local icon along the main tourist strip, the Beaver House bait shop (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s across the street from World’s Best Donuts!).

They’ve raised many thousands of dollars each year to benefit their community.

grand marais mn raffle canoe
The 2019 raffle canoe taking shape

Raising Money to Benefit the Entire Community

The money raised through the raffle is awarded through small grants—from $250 to $1,000—to groups, individuals and businesses to create “Small Great Places” throughout the county. These grants have gone to fund projects like:

A handicapped-accessible picnic table…
A bench in a front yard so pedestrians can rest walking up the long hill…
A public ping-pong table on the local library’s lawn…
Felt animals mounted on trees along a hiking trail (the kids love them!)…
A professionally-designed outdoor mural where the public is invited to share the paint-by-number duties during the town’s annual Arts Festival.

It’s been a great way to encourage local folks to do small but creative things for their neighbors and community.

This Year’s Hand-Crafted Canoe Makes the Raffle Even Better

This year Jack approached another local organization, North House Folk School with his idea for a new twist on the raffle. North House offers classes on all sorts of fun things, including how to build your own canoe.

building raffle canoe
North House and Stone Harbor staff worked on this year's canoe together


Jack asked if they’d be willing to partner with him to build a canoe for the raffle, making the prize even more special. They agreed, waived the tuition and put one of their specialists on the project. All of Stone Harbor’s year-round staff were also involved in the building project.

The prize canoe was fashioned of ash ribs over a form, white and red cedar planks, and tightly-spread canvas covered with several coats of varnish and marine paint.

handcrafted raffle canoe
2019's handcrafted raffle canoe


Stone Harbor’s General Manager, Beth Poliquin, said this of their experience: “It was a lot of fun to be a part of this project and so cool to do it under the guidance of master canoe builder Jeanne Bourquin from Ely. We all value the experience.”

The winner’s name was drawn this week, and plans for next year’s raffle won’t be long in coming.

You can find more photos and information about the crafting of the canoe on the Cook County Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.

(All photos courtesy of Jim Boyd and Cook County Chamber of Commerce)

Need help finding your next canoe paddle? Get in touch with our Wisconsin-based customer service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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