Hundreds of walking enthusiasts from across North America and as far away as Norway are hiking through about a dozen Iowa communities this week as part of the 17th Biennial American Volkssport Association convention. Event chairwoman Susan Pinneke says this convention marks the group’s 35th anniversary.

She says it’s a family-friendly, non-competitive personal recreation activity. It mainly involves walks of five or ten kilometers, but can also include biking, swimming, watersports and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. The convention itself will run Wednesday through Friday in Des Moines and it’s expected to draw more than one-thousand people. Pinneke says this is the first time Iowa has hosted the international convention and they wanted to make several stops to showcase different places within the state’s borders.

She says when they started planning the convention six years ago, the Clear Lake/Mason City area was on top of the to-do list with the historic Surf Ballroom and Music Man Square. Besides the walks and seeing the sights, Pinneke says there are several things involved in the convention, including learning sessions.

The sessions include things like organizing clubs and walks to topics like foot care and learning about wind farms and the state capitol. Besides their stops in Mason City and Clear Lake, the group was at the Loess Hills and Council Bluffs on Saturday, followed by a stop at the Whiterock Conservancy in Coon Rapids on Sunday.

After their stop in north-central Iowa, the convention goes to: Living History Farms in Urbandale on Tuesday, Winterset on Wednesday, Ames on Thursday, Des Moines on Friday, Cedar Rapids on Saturday and they’ll be in the Quad Cities on Sunday. For more information, visit: www.ava.org.

By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City