Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

40 years, 'no risk of tan lines'

Crocus Grove resort marks anniversary

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In 1985, Susan Upton-Ryynanen and her husband Ray Ryynanen set out on an eight-hour trek from Thunder Bay to Crocus Grove, Manitoba's oldest clothing-optional resort, located in Beausejour.

"We have a Finnish background, and the Finns go to sauna with family members. We go with our parents when we're kids and we're nude in the sauna, so nudity really isn't a big deal in our culture," Upton-Ryynanen explained.

Her husband was the one who first heard about Crocus Grove, and the couple set off to visit and see if the resort was a place they could bring their children and have the same positive experience with nudity.

"We wanted to investigate and see if the culture that we grew up in, this wholesome culture, was really what (Crocus Grove) was about," Upton-Ryynanen said. "When we met the owners, we immediately knew they were very genuine in their naturism and their support of naturism."

And while the years have passed -- with Crocus Grove celebrating its 40th anniversary this year -- Upton-Ryynanen and other longtime members said the family-friendly atmosphere has remained.

Crocus Grove was opened in 1969 by Leon Prucyk and his wife Evelyn, who established the Crocus Grove Sun Club -- the social arm of the resort -- at the same time.

Cabins, RVs and tents are nestled together in one corner of the 45-acre property. At the other end there's a minigolf course and a sand-filled volleyball court, where a group of unclad players serves and dives for the ball, leaving nothing to the imagination.

Smack in the middle sits the Crocus Grove clubhouse with a hot tub inside and a crystal-blue pool outside.

It's here that most people gathered on a bright Saturday afternoon -- some lounging fully naked in the sunshine, others sitting by the poolside in T-shirts and shorts, and others in a stage of undress somewhere in between.

"No risk of tan lines," quips one nude sunbather.

Most members are couples who join in their late 30s, and often the women are more reluctant to disrobe, said Upton-Ryynanen.

"Body image is the most important thing that people seem to be worried about these days, because everyone is supposed to be young and slim and beautiful, and this is the most accepting place you'll ever find of personal body image because we all accept that everyone is different."

She said another common fear among first-time patrons is they'll be unable to stop themselves from gawking at the unclothed bodies surrounding them -- but those who do show up find their concern is often unfounded.

"When you talk to someone, you look at their eyes and their facial expressions," Upton-Ryynanen explained.

Rita L. joined Crocus Grove with her family when she was just 15 in 1977. At the time the Sun Club ran winter events at a Winnipeg YMCA when the campground closed down for the season.

"We were, as kids, a little unsure of what to expect when we went to the first swim," she said. "Right away you felt comfortable with these people, you got to go swimming and didn't have to wear a bathing suit. There was a very welcoming atmosphere."

When she got married and had children, she brought her kids to Crocus Grove, and now her grandkids come, too.

Rita was one of many Crocus Grove patrons who spoke openly about the freedom that comes with going nude, but didn't want to be identified by her last name because the reaction from acquaintances is sometimes filled with confusion when she reveals her pastime.

Upton-Ryynanen said that same confusion sometimes surfaces about Crocus Grove in general.

"There's a lot of misconception about what we might be," she explained. "It's simply camping with the option to camp nude or swim nude, and that's really the only difference between us and any other campground."

arielle.godbout@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2009 A4

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