Norwalk Show expands with festival

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Rain hampered final day’s attendance, but consumers turned out for the first three days

The Norwalk Boat Show & Waterfront Festival, which ran Sept. 24-27 in Norwalk, Conn., saw a 29-percent increase in attendance from last year through the first three days, but overall attendance was down 17 percent because of heavy rain on the final day.

Sunny weather the first three days brought out the crowds at the Norwalk Boat Show & Waterfront Festival. Attendance dropped on the rainy final day of the show.

Final figures were listed at 19,862 attendees, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which produces the show. Attendance in 2008 was 24,015.

This was the first year the show, formerly called the Norwalk International In-Water Boat Show, featured a festival component, with free live music in addition to the boats, gear and accessories. “Adding a water festival component pretty much presents us an opportunity to expand our reach in a market that we already draw a large crowd,” says show manager Jon Pritko.

Organizers had expected between 350 and 400 exhibitors, though exact figures were unavailable.

Nathan Gottlieb, owner of All Seasons Marine Works in Westport and Norwalk, Conn., brought Regulator and Hydra-Sports boats to the show. He says he was happy with the results in terms of leads. Though he didn’t sell at the show, he had three deposits as of early October.

Some dealers say they made a number of sales at the show, some even on the final day, despite the downpour. “I wasn’t expecting to sell anything on Sunday and, probably an hour into the show, I took an order for a new 17-foot Key West,” says Tim Basset, manager of Louis Marine in Westbrook, Conn. Bassett says he sold five boats at the show and had people coming into his showroom following the event.

“Maybe the lack of competition at the show was beneficial to us,” he says, commenting on the fewer number of exhibitors. “I wasn’t expecting much of anything resulting from the show.” Bassett describes the visitors to his booth as a mix between seasoned boaters, first-time buyers and those who just came to browse.

 “Our boats were loaded with people,” says David Dzurilla, general manager of MarineMax in South Norwalk, Conn. He noted that this year’s crowd seemed larger than last year, though the condensed show may have played a role in that perception.

This article originally appeared in the Connecticut & New York Home Waters Section of the December 2009 issue.