Looking ahead to all the summer fun you can have starts with the 41st annual Fort Wayne Boat Show and Sale.
“This is the best place to come and look forward to summer,” says Tracy Sweeney, executive show director. “People can start planning and talking about their plans while looking around to see what’s new. This boat show is important because boating as an industry is good at bringing families together so they can make great memories on our many lakes in Northeast Indiana.”
The show will run Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 10-13, at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, 4000 Parnell Ave. Hours are 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
More than 60 exhibitors, including about 40 marine dealers from Indiana and Michigan, will show their latest products, answer questions and give special incentives for the purchase of boats and watercraft, accessories, piers and more.
Daily giveaways will include free parking with a coupon on Thursday; floating speakers on Friday; and Yeti Rambler insulated cups on Saturday. The first 500 attendees on Sunday will receive boat show sunglasses.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will conduct a Water and Boating Safety class from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12. Register for the class at the show’s DNR booth or go online at fortwayneboatshow.com.
Three Rivers Credit Union will be available to answer questions and provide on-the-spot financing for a boat purchase made at the show. Vendors will provide snacks such as fudge, roasted almonds and caramel corn.
Each year, the show attracts about 10,000 people from around the Midwest, and it’s grown every year, Sweeney says.
“Boating is a popular sport because people love to be outdoors,” she says. “During the pandemic, being outdoors is the safest place to be.”
A boat owner herself, Sweeney says people enjoy boating for various reasons. Some like to fish and have short, relaxing getaways; others like to exercise and do sporting activities on the water like wakeboarding, surfboarding and skiing; still others just like to bring people together, move around the lake and enjoy its natural beauty.
“There’s enjoyment to be had by people of all ages and from all walks of life,” she says. “Some of the best memories are made on the lake. For a lot of families, a lake cottage or cabin reunites family members who’ve scattered in all directions due to work or other obligations.”
Sweeney anticipates this year’s show will be more popular than ever after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic.
People who want to trade in a boat are encouraged to bring pictures and information about it to help dealers determine its value.
Doug Anderson is co-owner of Wawasee Boat Company, 6521 E. Cornelius Road, Syracuse, Ind., along with his wife, Carolyn, and their son, Russell. His business is one of the largest marinas in the state, with two big showrooms and 23 storage buildings on 45 acres.
Anderson has participated in the Fort Wayne Boat Show and Sale since its beginning. He says the dealer-owned and -operated show makes the event more attractive to serious boaters, who don’t have to put up with the fanfare of a show that’s put on by promoters and geared mostly to entertainment.
“We’re businesspeople and we’re looking out for what the boating public needs and wants,” says Anderson. “We’re serious about boating, are very attuned to what this market is looking for, and, most importantly, we’re not an entertainment venue, like some shows. Any kind of boat anyone would want for the lakes and rivers of Northeast Indiana can be found at our show.”
He estimates there are about 400 lakes in the area, most of which are spring-fed, fresh-water, glacier-made lakes.
“Wawasee Lake is one of the lowest-latitude glacial lakes in the world. By comparison, there are only 11 glacial lakes in Ohio and four in Illinois,” he says.
Anderson has observed more demand for pontoon boats, wave runners, wakeboarding and wake surfing boats, in recent years, and less demand for water skiing boats.
The quality of the show speaks for itself, since most of the dealers have been with the show since its beginning.
“The stability of dealers here amazes me,” says Anderson. “There’s an inherent demand for boats, boat maintenance and storage, and boat products for our lakes, and it’s quite apparent local businesses are doing a good job of taking care of people.”
Admission is $10. Children under 12 are admitted free. For money-saving coupons, visit forwayneboatshow.com. To learn more, contact Sweeney at [email protected] or call her at (260) 482-7819. ❚