Monday, July 22, 2013

Volkssporting founding father Kenn Knopp dies at age 79

The founding father of the volkssport movement in the U.S., the Reverend Mr. Kenn Knopp, 79, passed away July 15, 2013 in Fredericksburg, Texas. His passing closes the chapter on a remarkable man dedicated to an ideal of fun, fitness and fellowship.

The American Volkssport Association (AVA) may have never happened if a 40-something Knopp had not visited his aunt and uncle in Rome and taken their advice that regular walking was the best all-around thing he could do about his being overweight and out of shape.

When he returned to the U.S., he wrote to the president of the IVV in Germany (the International Federation of Popular Sports) about putting on a walk in Fredericksburg as part of the celebration of the American Bicentennial. Kenn was a member of the town’s bicentennial committee and placed an ad in the local newspaper that a volkssporting club was being formed and a volkssport festival was scheduled. That local club, Volkssportverein Friedrichsburg, conducted the first IVV-sanctioned volkssmarch on June 13, 1976, and still today holds the designation of Club 001. 

Knopp also was instrumental in forming the U.S. governing body and named it the International People’s Sports, United States of America or IPS-USA. And on April 20, 1976, the IPS-USA was incorporated in Texas with charter number 379672.  The IVV accepted it as the national organization of volkssporting in the U.S. with associate member status on April 30, 1976 and the role of serving as the regulatory body to oversee the development of additional fests and walk organizations in Texas as well as the other states.

Obtaining full membership in IVV meant that IPS-USA had to have active representative member units in at least five states with functioning events. To assist in the promotion of volkssporting and to attract other states, Knopp developed and became the editor of The American Wanderer (TAW) with the first issue published in January 1978. The first five states to qualify were Texas, Kentucky, Ohio, California and Florida.

The first national convention of volkssporters in the U.S.A. was held June 15-17, 1979. Its purpose was to ratify a constitution, elect national officers, consider a name change and fulfill requirements to become a member nation of the IVV. It was here that AVA was established as a member nation of IVV.

Thanks to Mr. Knopp’s insight and efforts, the first two years (1979-1981) of the AVA saw substantial growth from approximately 17 clubs at the first convention to about 72 clubs by the second convention in June 1981.

The American Wanderer printed a tribute to him in their October 1981 issue. They had this to say: “If any single individual can be credited with bringing volkssports to America, it has to be Kenn. It was his contagious enthusiasm and his great vision that got us started. Kenn was the driving force behind the first American volkssmarch…it was Kenn who got the clubs organized; it was Kenn who was the National Coordinator, and the Editor of TAW.

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