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Columbia Boat Show hopes to shifts thoughts to sun from slush

krupon@thestate.com (803) 771-8308January 30, 2014 

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS — File

  • If you go

    What: Columbia Boat Show 2014

    When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 7, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 8, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 9

    Where: State Fairgrounds, Assembly Street at Rosewood Drive

    Cost: $8, adults; free, children 12 and under; parking, $2

    More information: Columbiaboatshow.com

As Wednesday’s rare snow turned to slush, some Midlands residents were dreaming of spring.

Many of them are longing for warm days on the lake or at the coast in their own boat.

So far this year, boat sales are up as much as 25 percent over last year at some of the shows around the region, said Craig Stukes, a spokesman for Ray Klepper Boating Center in Irmo.

That boat dealer will join 17 others at the Columbia Boat Show, Feb. 7 to 9 at the State Fairgrounds, to show off the latest watercraft to Midlands mariners.

“The early results on the early shows is everything is positive, the recession is over and everything’s rebounding,” Stukes said. “Do I think it’s going to be a banner year? Probably not. But I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Columbia’s boat sales community was just beginning to recover from several major Lake Murray drawdowns that had impacted boating for several years running when the economy plunged into the Great Recession.

“We were gearing up for everything bouncing back and then, wham, you get hit with the recession,” Stukes said. “It’s been a while since everything’s been outstanding, but everybody’s plugging along.”

The most popular boats so far this year have been pontoons and small “runabouts” from roughly 17- to 23-feet long, Stukes said. The market for cruisers is not great, he said, but there are indications that deck boats could make a comeback.

This year’s show will feature about 40 percent more dealers than the show did two years ago, Stukes said. In addition to a range of boats, patrons can expect a variety of vendors, food trucks and a children’s play area.

Even though there’s still snow on the ground, this is the time of year consumers typically start looking for a boat if they are in the market, Stukes said. That’s because if they want to order a boat that is not in stock, it will take a couple of months for it to arrive, he said.

“It’s good that it snowed this week, and it’s supposed to be 70 degrees (next) Saturday,” Stukes said.

If you go

What: Columbia Boat Show 2014

When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 7, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 8, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 9

Where: State Fairgrounds, Assembly Street at Rosewood Drive

Cost: $8, adults; free, children 12 and under; parking, $2

More information: Columbiaboatshow.com

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