Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 8, 2013

Loraine Anderson: Floatilla splash has ripple effect


---- — I write this column four days after the Suttons Bay Floatilla2 last weekend. The images and sentiments still are with me:

The northern Michigan sun and blue skies. The carpet of kayaks and canoes stretching in alphabetical order from the back of Marina Park to the beach on Floatilla morn.

The funny and goofy things people can say and do in a raft of 2,099 kayaks and canoes.

The laughter, joy and group conversations among strangers holding onto each other’s vessels while waiting for the official aerial photograph to be taken.

I think about the community spirit and light-heartedness I saw that day.

I see the teams of volunteer school kids — polite, friendly, helpful, welcoming — unloading the heavy, awkward boats from the tops of cars, stacking them in a motley assortment of borrowed trailers and trucks to be taken to Marina Park, where local Boy Scouts guarded the colorful kayaks and canoes overnight.

My favorite was a long, slim baby-blue kayak with pots of bright yellow black-eyed susans planted in the cargo holes.

I try to put my finger on what it is that has impressed me so about this creative fundraiser to help the Suttons Bay‘s Student Activity Fund restore its school enrichment programs lost in severe state budget cuts.

What happened this year and last in Suttons Bay on Labor Day weekend is the kind of thing that can change lives, hearts and minds. The sheer beauty of the idea, organization of community, and “we can do this” optimism is powerful.

The Floatilla is not just another northern Michigan summer festival.

It’s an example of what a community that loves its school, kids and families and takes seriously the responsibility of providing a good education to its youngsters.

This sense of love and responsibility shows up even in low fees for early registrants.

Organizers say they tried to make it affordable for families and individuals.

“Its fun,” said Linda Thornton, a Suttons Bay mom and registration volunteer when asked why she volunteered. “You can get the whole family involved, and the kids get involved in the community, too.”

Monica Spencer, 22, a recent Delta College graduate whose parents live in Suttons Bay, was another of the hundreds of volunteers.

“It’s something I wanted to be involved in,” she said. “This is one heck of a fundraiser. Anything with water and kayaks, locals will eat it up.”

She was right about that, but more than locals showed up.

Kayakers and canoeists came from more than 20 states, Canada and Germany. Many said they were drawn also by the idea that it would benefit the school, albeit not their own.

And that’s what makes a splash in my heart.

Loraine Anderson can be reached at For photos of the event go to