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After opening in two days of rain and poor attendance, the just-ended Michigan City In-Water Boat Show (outside Chicago) came roaring back under sunny weekend skies to clearly signal there’s still “life” in the marketplace.

While the total four-day attendance finished down 12 percent, enthusiasm by show visitors and exhibitors was up. “Since we’re the first major fall show, we really didn’t know what to expect this year,” said Ken Alvey, president of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association. “We learned a lot and it was mostly good.”

For example, Alvey noted they learned by randomly asking attendees entering the show where they had come from. “In the past, our show (actually located in northwest Indiana) has drawn most of its following from Illinois and Michigan,” explained Alvey. “We were concerned the recession would reduce our attendance to mostly locals. Would people still drive long distances to the show? Happily, we determined out-of-state visitors still appear to be the majority, reaffirming the show continues to have regional impact."

The news from exhibitors was equally positive. Harry Stevens, Stevens Marine (Michigan City, Ind.) brought eight brokerage boats to the show’s Brokerage Pier. “We sold five by Saturday night and we have deals pending on another,” Stevens reported. “We knew sales would be price driven so our boats were priced right and they moved."

Steve Paulsen, Racine Riverside Marine (Racine, Wis.), said he had one of their Hunter Sailboats sold and excellent prospects for a second. “Any dealer who isn’t in this show is shooting himself in the foot,” Paulsen said. “People are coming in here, they’re not coming into the store!”

Similar upbeat comments came from Tom Jagucki, Lakeside Marine Group (Lakeside, Ohio) and Rod Bensz, B & E Marine (Michigan City, Ind.).

Jim Thorpe, Spring Brook Marina (Seneca, Ill.) echoed that idea. He said, “The quality of the people is excellent. We’ve sold two of our big Carvers and I expect one more before it’s over.” Thorpe was honored at the opening night Exhibitor’s Dinner along with six other exhibitors for having exhibited in all 30 years of the Michigan City show. Others so honored were: B & E Marine; Larsen Marine (Waukegan, Ill.); North Shore Marina (Grand Haven, Mich.); Star-S Industries (Chesterland, Ohio); Smugglers Cove (Houghton Lake, Mich.) and Avalanche Jewelry (Mokena, Ill.).

If this show is any indicator, the fall shows ahead can expect attendance to remain healthy . . . the bottom won’t fall out. Moreover, sales will be happening, even if totally driven by low prices.

Here’s today’s How I Discovered Boating video:


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