CLEVELAND, Ohio – If you thought the Cleveland Boat Show only concerns boats, you would be as wrong as a fish out of water.
The 65th fair will take place from Thursday March 17 to Sunday March 20 at the International Exhibition Centre.
The water exhibit is all about boating, fishing, paddling, education, entertainment, and yes, Twiggy the squirrel waterskiing.
As Michelle Burke says, “It’s like summer inside.”
Burke would know. She is president of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, executive director of the Boating Association of Ohio, and executive director of On The Water Ohio.
The show was founded in 1957 by dealers who wanted to own and operate their own boat shows. He was supposed to come back in January, his usual time, but the omicron surge pushed him back to March. More than 50,000 people are expected to attend what is billed as the oldest and largest boating and fishing exhibit as well as the largest marine-related event in Ohio. Over 250 exhibits of accessories, marinas, nautical apparel, educational exhibits and services are included.
“There are a lot of activities to do,” Burke said. “You don’t need to buy a boat to enjoy the show.”
A variety of hands-on experiences and live entertainment await. Whether it’s dreaming of being on the water in a sleek watercraft or learning more about the islands of Lake Erie, there’s something for everyone who wants to be on the water – whether it’s either by boat, fishing, paddling or jet-skiing.
“This isn’t your grandfather’s boat show,” she said. “People say to me, ‘Well, the boat show isn’t what it was 30 years ago.’ My answer is, ‘You are right.’ For me, it’s this global experiential event where people can come and be inspired by an aquatic lifestyle.
Here are seven things to check:
Boating’s popularity has “rise exponentially,” Burke said. “You had a lot of old people retiring, selling their boats, and their kids and grandkids not going back to business. The numbers were dropping. The pandemic has been the best thing to ever happen to boating.
Part of the boost in popularity is that some people have higher disposable income during the pandemic. This meant that money that was not spent on travel or other activities during the coronavirus pandemic shutdown could be spent on purchases like personal watercraft.
The other reason is that Ohio Governor Mike DeWine kept the industry open during the restrictions. Other states have closed boating, Burke said.
“When it comes to outdoor activities — boating and paddling — there was a huge boon in the state of people turning to these sports,” she said. “And they never went to a boat show. For all of our pandemic shoppers, this is our first big event.
Boat sales, especially to many first-time boaters, have set records during the pandemic, Burke said. To help newcomers enjoy their boating lifestyle, a comprehensive program of expert boating basics seminars will be offered at On-The-Water-Ohio.
Hundreds of craft on display will range from new inflatable paddle boards that can be carried in a bag to fishing machines, pontoons, sport boats and vessels over 40 feet. Some selected used boats will also be exhibited.
A 47-foot-by-22-foot wading pool in On-The-Water Ohio Wading Center can accommodate kayaking and paddleboarding demonstrations. Ohio has more than 3,000 registered paddle boats — a number that “has grown exponentially over the course of Covid,” Burke said.
The fishing center scene comes at just the right time; approach of the fishing season. A 5,000 gallon fishing tank will be installed. “Lake Erie is one of the greatest fisheries there is,” Burke said. “Fishing was already incredibly popular in this area,” especially for walleye and perch.
4. Do not miss
Participants can experience two sailing simulators in the sailing center. You can get on board, take the helm, trim the sails, heel the boat and have the feeling of being on the way. It’s a good way to get in touch with your interior Jonas Grumby.
LEMTA will offer a hands-on learning center/seminars, where you will learn everything from safety to financing and boat rental affordability. Educational seminars on fishing, advice for children, safety instructions and much more will be offered. “There are multiple areas of learning, education, and entertainment,” Burke said.
• Theme nights are back:
Thursday March 17: St. Patrick’s Day with Put-In-Bay
Friday March 18: First Mate Night (Headliner: Killer Flamingos)
Saturday March 19: Spring launch (headliner: Tricky Dick and the Cover-Ups)
Sunday March 20: Family Day Sunday
• The “Central Park” lawn and play area where families can take a break has been expanded. It used to be 60 by 40 feet. Now it’s 100 by 45 and is located in front of the main stage. Expect hula hoops, cornhole and more. “It was a great vibe for the show,” Burke said.
• A children’s area has been reinforced with make-up, a magician, several projections of “Vana” and more.
• It wouldn’t be a boat show without the water skiing prowess of Twiggy the Squirrel. “Twiggy is a legend at the boat show,” Burke said.
• The show will have its first food-truck rally. And yes, lobster bisque will be available.
7. If you leave
Or: the Cleveland Boat Show is at the International Exposition Center, 1 IX Center Dr., Cleveland.
Hours: noon to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 17-18; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 19; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 20.
Admission: $16 (advance online), $18 (at the door). Also: $15 discount, military and 60 and over available at the door only; free, from 7 years old. Note: Ticket discounts are available online. Parking is extra.
I am on cleveland.comfrom the Life and Culture team and covers topics related to food, beer, wine and sport. If you want to see my stories, here is a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I usually talk food and drink at 8:20 a.m. Thursday morning. Twitter: @mbona30.
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