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If the results of the Michigan City In-Water Boat Show are any indication, the industry’s fall boat shows are heading for more success over a year ago. Boosted by good weather, the show finished with an 11 percent increase in attendance and a very upbeat feeling on the part of exhibitors. 

“We’re ecstatic,” said show manager Ken Alvey. “We didn’t project any increase in attendance, so 11 percent is great! We’re also delighted the attitude of the visitors and the exhibitors proved to be very upbeat this year – 180 degrees from a year ago."

Alvey was echoing what exhibitors were reporting. For example, Tighe Curran, general manager, Pier 33 Marina, St. Joseph, Mich. (Pursuit, Scout & Chaparral) told WNDU-TV: “Last year we were facing very negative attitudes over the economy and some environmental issues. This year the attitudes are just the opposite -- very enthusiastic. This has been a much more successful show for us.”

“The show pumped up our entire organization,” said Rod Bensz, sales manager of B & E Marine (Sea Ray, Tiara, Boston Whaler). “The crowds were good and the people were very positive about this summer. We sold a Sea Ray 45', 37' and 21 Select. We have more than a dozen sea trials scheduled this week and one of our salesmen alone has 41 strong prospect cards to follow up."

Speaking about the show in general, Bensz added an interesting observation: “While the show was smaller this year, new first-time visitors didn’t know the difference and said it was excellent. And our regular customers, well, they expected the show to be a little smaller but still wanted to attend and thought it was well worth it. There was just no trash talk."

Steve Wenzel, sales manager at Spring Brook Marina, Seneca, Ill. (Carver, Marquis, Cruisers) reported: “Attendance has been good and attitudes are mostly positive. We sold a ’09 Carver 440 Motor Yacht on opening day. That boat drew a lot of interest – too bad I didn’t have a couple of more. There is definitely still a reluctance to buy over concerns about the economy and government actions, but it’s obvious people have expectations that the November elections will change things and bring about more confidence. No question people would buy if things were just more positive,” he emphasized.

“We have strong prospects on several other Carvers and our 420 Marquis," Wenzel added.

Good weather notwithstanding, Alvey also noted holding the show a week earlier than normal may have helped. The date was changed to avoid competing with a Tall Ships event in Chicago slated for the show’s traditional weekend.

“Or, maybe it’s because we’re the ‘Last Man Standing’ – that was the front page in the News Dispatch this week,” said Alvey. “The reference was that our show is the only one left on Lake Michigan serving Illinois (Chicago), Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.”

If nothing else, the good results at Michigan City reconfirm that boat shows still have a strong, unique appeal to the boating public and the only bad show is the one a dealer isn’t in!

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