by Dave Warner

This week marks the thirty-second year of the Canal Celebration and in the past, they have approached the celebration from many different angles.

According to Roger Stock, “Every year the Core planning committee searches for a theme that tries to encompass all that the canal has brought to the city and its history. This year we are taking a different approach for the parade. We would like to honor a person who has been on the committee from the beginning and has been instrumental in the theme design from its inception with his artistic talents.”

“This person was also the designer of his class’ Prom theme. The class of 1969 is celebrating the fiftieth year of their graduation. We brought these two anniversaries together to honor Gordie Ackerman as Grand Marshal. Thank you, Gordie, for all your endeavors,” said Stock.

Ackerman said “A lot of this has to do with the 50th class reunion this year. During those years in high school, I was kinda the guy you went to for artwork. I was also the class treasurer all through school, so I hired the bands, so I was in the middle of their promotions or helping them out.”

He also did shirts for the Canal Celebration starting with the very first one. “This year I did one with my son for the 32nd. Out of the 32, I’ve probably done 28 or 29…something like that. I kinda lost track,” he said.

“The Canal Celebration has always been a part of our family with the kids growing up. It’s all we’ve ever known,” said Ackerman.

He says that he just happened to start his screen-printing business the year before the first Canal Celebration. Since then, he’s not only done the official shirt for the events but ones for the races, Paddle along the Erie, Double Dawg Dare, and the Canal Classic Bicycle races.

“Even when I took on things like the Boilermaker and America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk, I still was connected to the event,” he said.

Working on full-color shirts with artwork by Bob Willman took him in a new direction as well. “I actually learned process screen printing wanting to do that shirt in full color of Lock 17,” stated Ackerman.

When asked what he thought about getting the honor he said “I’m surprised that they even picked me. Just between you and me, I hope this isn’t a trick by my class and that they’re just doing it to throw water balloons at me.”