Ten years ago, Drew Wickham never thought of becoming a boater. Not only does he now own a boat, but Wickham also operates upstate New York’s largest boat show – the Central New York Boat Show.
This four-day boat show will feature over 500 new models of power and sailboats from over 50 boat dealers. They will be on display and available for purchase at the New York State Fairgrounds February 16-19.
Founded in the 1960s, the CNY Boat Show is owned by the Boating Industries Association of Upstate New York, an organization of independent shipping dealers from the central New York area. The association sponsors the boat show, and all of its members participate in the show.
“The show was just meant to showcase the products to customers and have a one-stop shopping event, so people could come and see all of the boating products,” Wickham said. “And he went on and became what he is today.”
During its formative years, the boat show was held at the Oncenter War Memorial Arena. Now he exhibits boats in three buildings in the New York State Fairgrounds – the Center of Progress, the Horticulture Building, and the Exhibition Center Building.
Barb Caster, Executive Secretary of the Nautical Association, has been at the Boat Show for almost 40 years. Caster participated in the show from 1976 to 1986 as an exhibitor.
“The show has really evolved in the number of marinas that display,” Caster said. “I’ve really seen it grow and the reason for that growth is the interest in boats, and marinas have evolved because of that.”
The event will feature almost all types of boats, including cruise ships, sport boats, pontoon boats, personal watercraft and docks.
Although the CNY Boat Show is the most popular among boaters, the show also attracts people who are not familiar with boating. A boating information center will provide information on boating safety, and the United States Customs and Border Protection in Syracuse will educate people about boating in open water. .
“I always say this is a great place to learn more about boating,” said Wickham. “If there’s something that interests you, come talk to our dealers about what boating is all about and get information. “
For entertainment, the show will host Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, a privately funded zoo and animal rescue. The zoo will display dozens of their reptiles and host educational seminars throughout the show.
Fowler’s Marina, one of the show exhibitors, has been involved with the boat show for over 20 years. Marina manager Kristy Fowler-Ritter says the boat show’s location makes it ideal for their clients in Syracuse and Rochester.
“It’s located in the middle of the state, so we have a lot of participation from all over New York state,” Fowler-Ritter said.
The family owned and operated marina has been in business for 35 years and sells pontoon boats, boat lines, personal watercraft and pleasure boats. This year, the marina plans to display a new line of pontoon boats.
As one of the show’s oldest dealers, Fowler’s Marina offers rental boats, allowing visitors to test their boats in the water. The CNY Boat Show will also host in-water demonstrations for visitors.
Along with these services, Fowler-Ritter says the boat show is an opportunity for people to experience a wide variety of boats.
“The show brings all the dealers together so people can make comparisons between the different models they are looking for,” said Fowler-Ritter. “It also brings customers to one location, instead of having to search for boats statewide.”
Caster is encouraging college students to attend the boat show and is eagerly awaiting a new line of boats that may interest a younger audience. This year the show will feature surf boats that can simulate a wake behind the boat.
While the boats will be on display throughout the show, there will also be a seminar presented by Captain Tony Buffa at the Center of Progress Building on Thursday at 7 p.m. Buffa, who offers fishing charters in central New York City, will be giving an informal talk on fishing at Lake Oneida.
In addition to selling boats, Wickham hopes the seminar and exhibitors will educate people about the boating industry.
“Boating is not for the elite which is a misconception out there that you have to have mega-dollars to sail,” Caster said. “The thing about boating is you can get out in the water and forget what’s going on in your life – it’s amazing that not many people take advantage of it. “
Posted on February 15, 2017 at 10:13 p.m.