Weather dampens 'strong' Norwalk show


Heavy rain last Sunday washed out the final day of the Norwalk (Conn.) Boat Show & Waterfront Festival, which saw a 29 percent increase in attendance from 2008 through the first three days of the show.

Because of the dismal last day, however, the show wound up with a 17 percent overall decrease in attendance, with final figures listed at 19,862, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which produces the show.

Attendance in 2008 was 24,015.

Exhibiting dealers reported strong crowds and good leads at the Sept. 24-27 show, which featured a new festival component to expand its reach in the market.

Between 350 and 400 exhibitors were expected, organizers said prior to the event, though exact figures were unavailable. Many exhibitors noted a smaller show footprint than in past years.

"The show was pretty good, the traffic was strong it was definitely better than last year," said Mitchel O'Hara Jr., owner of Candlewood East Marina in Brookfield, Conn. O'Hara sells Cobalt, Malibu and Nautique boats.

Though he made no sales at the show, he was happy with some promising leads.

"We're still working on some deals from the show," O'Hara said. "I have a lot of good leads. It's definitely better than last year, that's for sure."

David Dzurilla, general manager of MarineMax in South Norwalk, Conn., said he was happy with the "good amount of units" he sold at the show. "We met our expectations, and we exceeded our expectations with the prospects moving forward."

"Our boats were loaded with people," he said, noting that this year's crowd seemed more prominent than last year, though the condensed show may have played a role in that perception.

While many consumers Soundings Trade Only talked to on the first day of the show said they were there more to look around and possibly buy accessories, rather than purchase a boat, most said it was a great show.

"I think it's wonderful," said Tim McDonnell, who attended the show with his wife, Jill, and said he found most of the accessories he was looking for to outfit his 50-foot Liberty cutter, Jolly Mon. "We came up from New York City for it."

Next year's show is scheduled for Sept. 23-26.

— Beth Rosenberg