Detroit Boat Show's move to January gives boaters a head start on season

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Starting this weekend, boaters will plot a course for downtown Detroit to cruise the TCF Center.

The 62nd annual Detroit Boat Show begins Saturday and runs through Jan. 26, weeks earlier than its usual February timeslot. With the North American International Auto Show's move to June, the Michigan Boating Industries Association, producer of the Detroit Boat Show, was quick to jump on board and return the show to January.

Wilson Marine employee Paiton Bater polishes a 26-foot Hurricane deck boat in preparation for the Detroit Boat Show. The show begins Saturday and runs through Jan. 26, weeks earlier than its usual February timeslot.

"For many years the Detroit Boat Show had late-January dates, but with the growing auto show, it got pushed later into the year to a February date pattern," said Nicki Polan, Michigan Boating Industries Association executive director and show manager. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to move back, as there are many reasons January dates will benefit our exhibitors as well as boat buyers in our state."

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The show will span nearly 500,000 square feet and is a one-stop-shop with financing and purchasing on the show floor. It will showcase nearly 800 boats including sleek yachts, runabouts, personal watercraft, pontoons, and fishing and ski boats from dealers around Michigan and the Great Lakes. 

Polan explained that unlike most auto shows, boat shows are events where boats can be ordered or sold directly.

Colony Marine employee Austin Porter puts the finishing touches on a Prestige 420 S.

"If you are ordering a new boat and want to have it customized, it is important to get your purchase order in early enough to assure your boat is ready for a spring launch," Polan said.

In Michigan, boating accounts for a $7.8 billion annual impact on the state’s economy. It's the fifth-highest nationally behind Florida, California, New York and Texas. Data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association reports that retail expenditures for a new boat, motor, trailer and accessory purchases exceeded $1 billion in Michigan in 2018, an increase of nearly 11% from 2017, and the ninth consecutive year of growth.

Anderson's Boat Sales employee Blake White waxes Mercury outboards on pontoon boats.

Attendance at the Detroit show is usually around 50,000 to 60,000, and organizer are hoping for an increase with the move to January. They say they have already had more than a 500% increase in e-ticket sales compared to the same time last year. The show peaked in 2017 when it saw a 3% increase to 69,169 visitors.

The show also offers exhibits selling boating accessories and services including motors, dockage, water toys, skiing and wakeboarding gear, boating and fishing accessories, electronics, boat gear, nautical gifts and artwork.

Promotion this year include a live stingray encounter, career days for high school and college students, a kids' craft area and free boater-safety course.

Admission is $13; ages 12 and under get in free. Hours for the Jan. 18-26 show are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays and Monday; and 3-9 p.m.Tuesday through Friday. Parking is available at TCF Center and surrounding lots.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_