MILWAUKEE – On a Thursday morning in mid-March, Darren Bush was poised to open Canoecopia, the largest event of its kind in the world. Bush, the owner of Rutabaga Paddlesports in Monona, Wisconsin, was nervous about the emerging threat of COVID-19, but safer-at-home had not been implemented.
Vendors from across North America were setting up 250,000 square feet of canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and other outdoor gear for the three-day trade show scheduled to begin the next day, Friday the 13th, at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.
Months of work had gone into the planning. About 20,000 people were expected to attend.
Then, Bush got word that Gov. Tony Evers was having a news conference where he declared a public health emergency.
Bush went home.
On that Thursday, he needed to step away from the pressure of organizing Canoecopia, where scores of small-business owners and salespeople counted on his decisions.