Boating season is coming.
And so is the biggest boat show in the Carolinas. The Mid-Atlantic Boat Show will be held Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 6-9, at the Charlotte Convention Center. It’s also expanding. The show includes an extra 45,000 square feet of space compared to last year. The show will include more than 100 vendors.
“We’ve had three boat shows and at all of them the number of visitors has been up, the boat sales are up,” said Russell Gray with Southeast Productions, which runs the show.
When the economy dipped several years ago, some boat dealers went out of business and most manufacturers cut back on production. Now the industry is seeing a rebound. A half dozen dealers, including Boat Sales of Lake Wylie, are doubling their space this year compared to last. Lake Wylie Marina has a central location, and a side spot fishing display between interactive fishing and diving exhibits.
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Matt Sellhorst with Lake Wylie Marina said new additions this year include a 2014 Sea Ray 240 SunDeck outboard deck boat and Sea Ray 410 SunDancer that may be the “biggest boat at the show.” The marina is part of the Hall Marine Group, which is pooling its resources from several sites for the show.
The fishing boat display will have “saltwater fishing experts from our coastal stores and freshwater experts representing Crestliner (aluminum fishing boats), Scout Boats and Boston Whaler,” Sellhorst said.
Vic Winebarger at Boat Sales brought three boats to his first show in 2011, then six the next year and seven last year.
“Last year we sold 16,” he said. “This year we’re taking 18.”
Winebarger said shows in Toronto and Chicago are up. He’s looking at a 20 percent increase in his show investment this year, based on previous shows. And all that despite frigid and icy weather in places, including Lake Wylie where sales are up early this year compared to last.
“We’re selling boats in the snow, so that’s a good sign,” Winebarger said.
Action isn’t limited to boat dealers. Companies like Dock Masters Marine Construction make the annual trip to Charlotte in hopes of meeting all sorts of potential customers under one roof.
“Yes we are in it again this year but nothing new, just the same set up,” said owner Perry Johnston.
New this year is the Be A Diver Scuba Experience sponsored by the Divers Equipment Manufacturers Association. “Big Wave” Dave will be set up in a 15,000-gallon heated pool where guests can explore with a certified scuba instructor. Equipment is provided and the experience is free for ages 10 and older. Ages 10 and 11 must be accompanied by a parent in the pool, and ages 12-17 must have a parent nearby.
Another 4,000-gallon tank will be stocked with largemouth bass for the Bass Tubs of Oklahoma display. Bass fishing seminars will be held throughout the weekend demonstrating techniques and gear used by the pros. The display is presented by Chase Devereaux.
Guests can try their hands fishing at the Western North Carolina Trout & Catfish Fishing Pond. Catfish will be added this year to the popular pond simulator. There will be a small fee to fish.