OSCODA – Each year since 2006, at least two people have been inducted into the Canoe Marathon Hall of Fame.
These are people whom the committee, as well as the community, believe deserve recognition; whether it is their accomplishments in the sport or their dedication to improving it.
This year’s inductees are the father-son couple Irvin “Buzz” and Steve Peterson, as well as Steven Kolonich.
Irvin started paddling when he competed in the 10 Day Aquatennial. The Aquatennial is a 450 mile race that stretches from Bemidji to Minneapolis, Minnesota via the Mississippi River.
Over the years, Peterson has competed in various races in the United States and Canada. Races including the Ely-Atikokan and La Classique canoe race departing from Quebec, Canada.
Irvin started racing with Ralph Sawyer, and through their races he got to know paddlers from many different fields. Irvin’s son Steve Peterson mentioned that his father’s favorite part of paddling was the camaraderie found in the sport; and that he believed it was not about winning or losing, but showing the time and effort put into getting this far.
Irvin also showed his love for the sport outside the river by building canoes and paddles with his friend and partner Gene Jensen. Irvin earned the nickname “Buzz” by “buzzing” or playing mind games on other runners around him. Most notably, Irvin would light his pipe or a cigarette and pass nearby boats.
Buzz completed his first AuSable River Canoe Marathon in 1956, while paddling with Tom Estes. He completed his tenth AuSable River Canoe Marathon in 1971, earning him his Iron Paddler Award. He has a total of 12 career finishes and ten top 5. Four of them were top spots in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1971.
Four of Buzz’s finishes and one victory came with his son Steve Peterson, who will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. Steve Peterson began his paddling career in 1967 with his father when they competed in the marathon together, crossing the finish line in second place. Steve has a total of five career finishes, four top five and the 1971 win with his father.
One of Steve’s favorite aspects of boating is the camaraderie and friendships formed through the sport. Some notable friendships Steve mentioned were Ralph Sawyer, Carrie Montgomery, and Tony Short. Tony was Steve’s partner in his most memorable race. As the team prepared for departure, Steve asked
Tony where their flashlight was, to which Tony replied, “We don’t need it.” “
They continued to run through the night without a flashlight and still finished second!
Like many paddlers, Steve has strong feelings about the start, noting it as the most stressful part for him. The minutes before the shot goes off when all the time and effort is finally ready to show. He enjoys the support and kindness of the paddlers, and has even made paddling a family event.
Of Steve’s five arrivals, four were run with family members. Three with his father and the other two with his daughters Anna and Emily. He also mentioned that he had the most fun paddling with his kids whether they were running or not.
The latest inductee into the 2021 Marathon Hall of Fame is Steven Kolonich. Steven first discovered the sport of canoeing when he lived in Tawas.
With a career as a lumberjack, he spent quite a bit of time at Mio. Steven was known to his family and friends as a strong and competitive person, the sport of paddling suited him perfectly.
He is often considered the strongest man to ever row the marathon.
Kolonich has an impressive legacy, as paddling quickly became a family endeavor. Kolonich’s son and his wife were the feeders of many of Steven’s marathons. But Steven’s son Ken Kolonich switched from feeder to partner and was in the boat with his dad for three of his finishes. Ken and his son Steve carried on Kolonich’s legacy with a total of 36 marathon finishes.
Of these 36 finishes, 15 were carried out in a father / son team.
During his paddling career, Steven totaled 13 finishes in the AuSable River Canoe Marathon. Of the 13 races, all 13 were in the top 10, and in five races he placed in the top 3. The most notable of those finishes would be the 1958 championship. The year Kolonich took the first instead, he raced with Larry Kindell, and the duo crossed the finish line with a time of 16:41:00, a record time at the time. Steven was also the second paddler to win the Iron Paddler Award. Kolonich won his Iron Paddler Award in 1961 at the age of 41.
Hall of Fame recipients are selected by a joint vote of the Marathon Committee. To qualify for the honor, an individual must have either dedicated time, resources, or assisted in the development of procedures that either improved or continued the success of the marathon. An individual may also be chosen to exemplify endurance, motivation, competitive nature, character and the ability to overcome obstacles while participating in the marathon.
People recognized in the ARCM Hall of Fame since its inception are: Marilyn Wagner, Jay Stephan Sr., Hugh Bissonette, Bernie Fowler, Butch Stockton, Harry Curley, Ralph Sawyer, Al Widing Sr., Oscoda-AuSable Township Fire Department Water Rescue, Frank and Peggy Smutek, Stan Hall, John Cook, John Baker, Ed Wojahn, Serge Corbin, Bruce Myles, Lynne Witte, Jack Kolka, Larry Kindell, Howard Brubaker, Réjean Huard, the Gary family, the Kellogg brothers ( Jeff and Jerry), Bruce Barton, Solomon Carrière, Jeff Kolka and Joe Wakeley.