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Let the boat shows begin again

The North American Demo Boat Show will lead off the industry’s fall boat show circuit when it opens today and runs through Sunday at Cedar Point Marina on Lake Erie.

“Being the early show out of the box is a double-edged sword this year,” said Bryan Ralston, show manager. “On the one hand, there is still a lot of good boating time left here on the Great Lakes which always helps us generate sales at this show. But, a good sales summer means dealer inventories around here are low, and getting 2019’s, especially outboard-powered models, this early has posed some challenges. Still, we’ve got a lot and we’re anticipating a good attendee turnout and sales,” he predicted.

That said, Ralston also noted his expectation that visitors will be delighted to see major brands returning that have not been to this event in many years, largely because there has been no dealer representation in the show’s general marketing area. Returnees include Chris Craft, Albemarle, HCB, Fountain and World Cat, among others.

This year the show promotion is not only focusing on the 325-plus boats slated to be dockside, it’s pushing the hands-on experiences visitors will enjoy. “The stars of the show are the boats — we get that,” says Ralston. “But we’re also pushing hard for attendance by ‘selling’ the features visitors can enjoy.”

For example, the show is held predominately on temporary floating docks and the layout is designed to permit many of the show boats to do demo rides and sea trials during show hours or before show opening. Nearly half the boats can get in and out, if desired.

Meanwhile, it’s hands-on at the special Discover Sailing Center. Licensed captains will take wannabe sailors out onto Sandusky Bay to experience the adventure of sailing, during which they will take the helm of the boats under full sail.

If learning to paddle is more a visitor’s passion, the “Kayak Experience” will send show goers out in a special area to paddle around. After learning about basic safe kayaking techniques in an onshore briefing by the Akron (Ohio) Power Squadrons, visitors will cast off in one of a fleet of kayaks to paddle in the kayaking lagoon area.

Another Power Squadron, this one from Sandusky, will challenge show visitors’ docking and navigation skills using their advanced Boating Skills Virtual Trainer. A state-of-the-art simulator, the instructors will suddenly change up factors, like wind and current speed and direction, to seriously test a boater’s handling skills.

Other activities include face painting for the kids; specialty food and drinks for adults on the floating “Party Barge,” and the musical shows of the Found Sounds Steel Drum Band to kick back for a time.

The show, now in its 46 year, is the oldest in-water show on the Great Lakes. Produced by the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, it is believed that sales at this and other in-water shows to follow this fall will reflect the industry’s expectations of continued 5 to 6 percent growth in the 2019 model year. 

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