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Detroit and Miami are barometer shows

Key boat shows at opposite ends of the country — one up north in the Great Lakes’ second biggest market of Detroit, and two monsters in Miami that cover everything the industry has to offer — will open doors today and Saturday and give us a pretty clear indication of just what to expect for the industry this spring.

First up, when the gates open today for the five-day Progressive Miami International Boat Show & Strictly Sail, as well as the nearby Yacht & Brokerage Show that runs concurrently, South Florida will be the undisputed center of the boating world. From paddleboards to megayachts, they’re all there somewhere.

While the Yacht & Brokerage Show occupies a mile-long in-water site along Collins Avenue, the Miami show covers three separate locations including the Miami Beach Convention Center, the new Yacht & Power Boat Show at Sea Isle Marina and Strictly Sail in Miamarina at Bayside.

In typical fashion, the show, headed by NMMA vice president Cathy Rick-Joule, has beefed up its variety special events and attractions to draw more than 100,000 attendees. Moreover, it attracts a large following from Central and South American countries.

Included in the Miami schedule of appearances are Discovery Channel’s Bear Grylls (“Man vs Wild”) who will unveil his new extreme RIB line; 2012 Indy Car champion Ryan Hunter; A&E’s “Shark Wranglers” expedition leader Chris Fischer and Capts. Jody Whitworth and Brett McBride; and fishing legend Ted Barta, host of “NBC Outdoors.” Add to that a “Welcome To The Water” Pavilion that includes a variety of boats all under $250 per month, plus information on a series on hands-on clinics conducted daily on the water by the Recreational PowerBoating Association, among other features.

While it might be colder up north, the 55th annual Detroit Boat Show won’t be. It’s set to open Saturday for a nine-day run on a much bigger stage.

“For the first time in four years,” says Nicki Polan, acting executive director of the Michigan Boating Industry Association, “our show is back to two halls at the Cobo Center. We have more exhibitors, more boats and brands and we’re expecting it will generate more attendance and more sales.”

While the increase in boats and exhibits are the stars of this show, Polan has also increased attractions to push attendance. These include appearances by Trigger Tommy and Trapper Joe from the hit TV series “Swamp People”; an extensive entertainment pavilion marking the 2013 bicentennial celebration of the Battle of Lake Erie featuring musical entertainment and period costumes and more; a peek at the new Quadski concept boat that goes from land to water in four seconds; and other features.

The MBIA is also using the boat show as a give-back vehicle. For example, “Save the Buoys” is a breast cancer awareness day where ladies will be admitted free and MBIA dealers will donate $100 per boat sold to the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. Similarly, “A Boat Load of Food” day will admit visitors free that bring five or more non-perishable food items to be given to the Detroit-area Gleaners Food Bank.

Both Detroit and Miami are the biggest shows in their respective regions left on our industry’s winter show schedule. Their results, both in drawing attendance and in the read dealers get about prospective sales heading into spring, will be a strong barometer of what lies ahead as we look forward to our prime selling season.

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