Attendance was up 10 percent - with about 12,500 visitors tallied - at the Hartford Boat Show, which ran Friday through Sunday at the Connecticut Convention Center.
“This has been our best response from the public in a number of years, indicating a positive change in the economy, small as it might be,” said Amy Lynn Clark, director of programs for the organizing Connecticut Marine Trades Association. Exhibitor space was sold out going into the show and the association had a vendor waiting list, Clark said.
The sense of optimism apparent at winter shows in New York and Providence, R.I., was also found in Hartford. Several dealers spoke of a change in mood among people who attended.
“They’re asking buying questions,” said Ryan Kagy, the Ohio-based regional sales manager for Premier pontoons. “People aren’t coming up to you and asking a bunch of questions, then walking away.”
About 50 dealers displayed more than 200 boats. Nearly 25 percent of the boats on exhibit were pontoons.
“A few years ago we were one of the only pontoon dealers at this show,” said Chick Shifrin, who runs Columbia Marine in northeast Connecticut.
“It’s a changing market, and people are looking for value and for efficiency,” Dorrance said of the 26 on display, which he said burns about 6.5 gph running at 17 knots and was selling at the show for $149,000.
“People are looking for something they can afford to not only buy, but afford to run and keep,” Dorrance said.
— Rich Armstrong