HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut boaters have options that range from lakes and rivers to Long Island Sound, so displaying the diversity of the state's boating scene was a priority for organizers of the 47th annual Hartford Boat Show.
Promoted strongly in the local media, the four-day event at the Connecticut Convention Center, which ended Sunday, had more than 125 exhibitors and 250 boats on display.
The expanded show provided activities that ranged from a stand-up paddleboard demonstration pool on the lower level to a virtual fishing tournament on a new second floor.
“We wanted to make the show fun, just like the recreation is,” Connecticut Marine Trades Association executive director Kathleen Burns said.
There also were appearances from authors such as Michael Tougias, co-author of “The Finest Hours,” who presented a slide show on Friday about the 1952 Coast Guard rescue described in the book on the same day the Disney feature film opened in theaters nationwide.
"We need to make the show different each year so it's appealing to people who are returning," Burns said Friday.
Exhibitors noticed the improvements.
"The show really presents well," said Mark Passeri, president of Chaparral dealer A&S Boats in South Windsor, Conn. "I think the layout has been conducive to a good flow."
Passeri also was impressed with the way the CMTA promoted the show.
"I'm hearing ads everywhere," he said Friday.
Evan Cusson, sales manager at Atlantic Outboard in Westbrook, Conn., said the attendees he had met were "good-quality visitors who were showing a lot of interest."
Cusson said the show also was fortunate to have Evinrude as its official sponsor. "They've been very good to us and the CMTA," he said.
Cusson, whose dealership sells Robalo and Pursuit boats, is expecting a strong selling season this year.
"Last year was a great year for us," he said. "We're really looking forward to 2016. We sell a lot of outboard fiberglass boats," and that segment has been a strong performer as the industry continues its recovery from the Great Recession.
Passeri said business at his dealership has shown steady improvement in recent years, but he said the industry is doing better in other states where the economy is stronger. He said poor state government policies have slowed Connecticut’s economic growth.
"Last year was a good year, relatively speaking," he said. "I don't think Connecticut has the best [business] climate."
Brian Luby, sales manager at Beacon Point Marine in Greenwich and Shelton, said his dealership has been coming to the Hartford show for 15 years.
"I think the CMTA has done a tremendous job of expanding the offerings of the show and making it more exciting," he said.
Beacon Point sells Scout, Sea Fox and Carolina Skiff boats. Luby said business has been "ebb and flow since the downturn in '08 but, all in all, it's been good. We're building the business back up to what it used to be."
He is cautiously optimistic about the year ahead.
"If the economy remains stable or looks to improve, we'll be very optimistic for the spring," he said. "We certainly have a lot of challenge there."