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Consumers come out for Northeast shows

Despite fewer dealers and fewer days, the 105th New York Boat Show proved to be a much bigger success than the previous year.

"The aisles were packed and there was activity in the booths," says show manager Jon Pritko. "It's great. Our goal is to remind people what they like about boating in the first place."

The show, held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, saw a 51-percent rise in attendance from last year for a total of 47,443, according to show organizers. This was the difference the National Marine Manufacturers Association was hoping for with this year's Jan. 20-24 dates, as opposed to the pre-holiday dates of Dec. 13-21 in 2008.

While space was condensed with 10 fewer exhibitors, people were crowding the floors.

"It's a little smaller than we thought it would be, but we've found some interesting models," says Beth Erickson, of Trumbull, Conn., who was attending the show for the first time. "We talked to a dealer for Striper [Seaswirl Boats, one of the former Genmar brands] who was very helpful and that is the model we are interested in the most."

Erickson says she is looking for something in the 21- to 24-foot range and appreciated being treated like the knowledgeable angler she is.

"I would definitely come back to this show," says Erickson.

Meanwhile the 41st annual Connecticut Marine Trades Association Hartford Boat Show, which ran Jan. 28-31 at the Connecticut Convention Center, saw similar attendance numbers from last year. Though specific numbers were not available, show manager Grant Westerson estimated attendance at 14,500.

Attendees didn't seem to mind that the show was consolidated from two floors to one, bringing the booth and exhibitor space together.

"This is my third year here - I like coming to this show to brainstorm," says Brendan Eddy from Bristol, Conn., who owns a 19-foot Alumacraft. "I'm looking at upgrading to a 25-foot fishing boat. My intention is to get offshore more. My friend and I like to go tuna fishing and we'd like something a little bigger, something we could maybe sleep on if we didn't want to head back right away."

Robert Wenger, of Windsor, Conn., has been coming to the show for the last 10 years. He bought a 22-foot Angler center console in 2007 at the New England Boat Show in Boston, but is now looking for a bigger vessel to do more offshore fishing.

"We're looking for something with more power, possibly twin engines," says Wenger.

Anne Duhaime of Guilford (Conn.) Boat Yards, which represents Triumph, Alumacraft and Walker Bay boats, says the dealer came out of the show with two deposits and plenty of leads.

"A lot of people we spoke to were looking to come down in size rather than upgrade," says Duhaime. "We had people tell us, for example, that they have a 20-foot vessel and are looking at 16- or 17-foot models."

Ben Wilde of Wilde Yacht Sales, Essex, Conn., was displaying the 2010 Ranger Tugs R29 model.

"[The show] went very well," says Westerson. "Quite frankly, we couldn't have asked for more."

This article originally appeared in the Connecticut and New York Homewaters Section of the April 2010 issue.