Columbus was cold and crisp Saturday morning, and salt left over from snow removal stained the sidewalk under steady foot traffic heading toward the Ohio Expo Center.
But inside the Celeste Center and the Bricker Building, visitors dreamed of warmer temperatures and long days outdoors as they admired sparkling new boats and pontoons and peeked into new sprawling RVs and RVs at the Ohio RV and Boat Show.
This weekend marks the return of the annual show, which took a break in 2021 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This is the 42nd year for the show, which is sponsored by the Central Ohio Marine Dealers Association and the Central Ohio Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association.
“It’s been non-stop,” show director Tim Luckhaupt said Saturday morning. On Friday, the show’s opening day, attendance was 18% compared to the 2020 opening Friday, he said. “We are very optimistic about this show.”
Camping and outdoor recreation have flourished throughout the pandemic as people seek ways to escape and get outdoors, show organizers, dealers and visitors said. The show offers visitors a giant display of camper trailers, travel trailers, motor homes, motor homes, fifth wheel motor homes, mini trailers, toy haulers, bassboats, cruisers, pontoon boats, personal watercraft and fishing boats, all at pre-season sale prices.
“People want to keep their germs to themselves,” said Michael “Griff” Griffith, product specialist at Specialty RV Sales, which has facilities in Canal Winchester and Lancaster. “They don’t want to be in a hotel, so they just take their own accommodation with them.”
“People still have a desire to do things and have decided that since they can’t travel long distances, they would consider staying in the area, looking at RVs as a way to get out, get in parks everywhere. Ohio,” Luckhaupt said.
There are also “people who decided that being on the water would be a great way to spend time together and make sure they could get out and enjoy the spring, summer and summer weather. fall,” he said.
The Streeter and West families are lifelong campers and found themselves especially grateful for their RVs and beloved Tree Haven Campground in Westerville when the pandemic hit.
“We loved it,” said Sharon Streeter, 71, of the Hilltop. “I went to the grocery store and camping. That’s all I did.
“Especially when COVID started, it was another set of walls to break through,” said Darlene West, 64, of Westerville.
The two women and their husbands were at the RV and boat show on Saturday just to look around and see what’s new, but they already knew that more people are interested in camping and the RV, RV market. and boats.
“We know they’re more interested because where our campground is, they’ve been crowded for the last two years,” Doug Streeter, 70, said.
Growing demand and COVID-related supply issues have driven up costs and reduced inventory at some boat and RV dealerships.
“We were there with very minimal campers for a while; it got a little scary,” said Griffith of Specialty RV Sales. “We were down to 25 campers that we had left on the pitch.”
Typically, they would have over 300.
In previous years, the RV and Boat Show has filled three buildings at the state’s fairgrounds. This year, after organizers learned that two RV dealerships would have no inventory to show, the show was limited to the Celeste Center building and the Bricker building, Luckhaupt said.
Still, the 2022 show features nearly 250,000 square feet of inventory.
Even without the RV and Boat Show last January, Alexander’s Landing at Millersport in Buckeye Lake was selling boats as quickly as it was getting them to the marina.
“Costs have gone up, but I don’t think that’s too big a factor for most people,” said Grace Harwood, co-owner of Alexander’s Landing. “I think they’re willing to spend the money, it’s just people realizing they can’t get it as quickly as they want.”
If you want to go there
The Ohio RV and Boat Show runs through January 16, but is closed Monday and Tuesday.
Tickets are $14 for adults, $3 for children 6-13, and free for children 5 and under. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Ohio Wildlife Center. Discount coupons are available at Banque Nationale du Parc or ohiorvandboatshow.com.
The show also offers special discounted rates on Wednesdays and Thursdays for adults who bring a can to donate to a local food bank. On Thursday, the show will give free admission to first responders and the military, with proper identification.