Great Lakes shows ride industry’s wave of success

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Overall, fall boat shows are on a roll, reflecting the good times for boat sales we’re enjoying these days. Two solid examples come from the Great Lakes, where both shows chalked up successful weekends, albeit with very different formats.

First, the Metro Boat Show at the Lake St. Clair Metropark near Detroit was deemed an all-around success by the Michigan Boating Industries Association, its exhibitors and sponsors. The four-day show saw its attendance grow 16 percent, to 12,883, up more than 1,800 from last year.

“Enthusiastic exhibitors reported plenty of boats were sold, substantial leads were generated and we should expect to see more boats in the water next year,” said Nicki Polan, the MBIA’s executive director.

The show featured about 400 boats, filling 115 slips and the adjacent land space of 72,500 net square feet. It was an increase of 30 percent from last year.

Tom Haag, vice president of Colony Marine and the MBIA’s board chairman, agreed: “The continued growth of the show, four perfect weather days and a great boating community made the event a success, increasing both attendance and our boat sales.”

“The success of the show reaffirms that boating in Michigan continues to ride a wave of success,” said Polan. “In 2016 new boat, motor, trailer and accessory purchases grew nearly 9 percent. It was the seventh consecutive year of growth in our state.”

Meanwhile, in Cleveland, the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association staged an all-new show in the heart of downtown. Called the Cleveland North Coast Harbor Boat Show, this free in-water event was staged in the shadow of the world-famous Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The show took over all of the docks in the “Rock and Dock Marina” for the three-day weekend event. Dealers from across northern Ohio docked more than 75 powerboats and sailboats from 24 to 55 feet.

“An awesome venue, beautiful weather and a lot of great interest from the attendees” is how Jason Clemons, of Clemons Boats in Sandusky, Ohio, described the weekend.

According to Bryan Ralston, LEMTA president: “The marina is a popular transient facility. Boaters flock to it each year to visit downtown and to access major sports events in the adjacent FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland Browns) and nearby Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians).

“It was a great opportunity for our dealers to showcase their boats in the heart of our major market,” continued Ralston. “The harbor atmosphere is one of energy and activity, not just because of the Rock Hall, but it’s also surrounded by the Great Lakes Science Center, the floating Steamship William G. Mather Museum, the USS Cod Submarine Memorial, the Nuevo Restaurant, food trucks, music on the plaza and more.”

Tom Mack, of South Shore Marine in Huron, Ohio, described the event this way: “The attendees were excited to see this new downtown event, and often we heard ‘keep doing this’. It was a great example of how the boating industry needs to get creative and try new events. Our sales team unanimously agrees that this new show will result in new business for us.”

Because the event was free, there are no attendance figures. But it is interesting to note that this was the first boat show staged in Cleveland’s downtown since 1986, when LEMTA moved its big winter show, the Mid-America Boat Show, out of the convention center to the suburban I-X Center.

There is a resurgence of urban living, with myriad new condos and apartments downtown, many overlooking the city’s lakefront.

“This new event showcased boating opportunities in the heart of the city,” said Ralston.

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