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This is not your father’s old drive-in movie

Think Tom Cruise, screaming jets, FighterTown USA and “I feel the need for speed!” It’s the movie “Top Gun,” right? Now, imagine you’re watching the movie under the stars, in the middle of a lake from your anchored boat. You’re at the “boat-in” movie. I get excited when I hear about dealers pulling off impressive ideas. Case in point: Mike Andersen and Kyle Pillsbury at MarineMax in Wayzata, Minn. They created and just wrapped up their second annual “boat-in” movie night on Lake Minnetonka with more than 250 boats on hand. What’s more, reporter Sarah Lemagie wrote an excellent story about the event for the Star-Tribune.com (Minneapolis). This is a story worth sharing, so enjoy the following excerpts from her article:

The flotilla of watercraft that tied up Friday evening on Lake Minnetonka held boaters who weren’t just there to swim and grill out. As night fell, a silver crescent of moon sparkled above the 40-foot-wide movie screen mounted on a barge at Big Island, and FM radios on the boats reverberated with the sound of jet engines as “Top Gun” played on the floating screen. The second-annual event was dreamed up by the guys at a boat dealership, who see it as a way to drum up a little business while hosting a free, family-friendly event.

Very cool, if you ask Margie Vechell, one of the several hundred boaters at Friday’s movie. “It’s just relaxing,” said Vechell, who was bringing burgers and hotdogs for her kids and an assortment of their friends and cousins. Families tie up “boat-to-boat-to-boat,” as she put it, then wander about to visit.

“We grew up boating on the lake, my family and I, and now I get to take the kids out,” said Stu Francis, who brought 4-year old Isabel and 2-year-old Isaac to the movie along with apples and Gatorade. “It’s a great way to get to know other boaters,” said Eileen Manning, a MarineMax customer who brought her boat out to grill burgers and make s’mores with relatives from Chicago.

Turning their vision into reality for the first time last year “took way more than I ever thought,” Andersen said. First, there were the permits. They needed permission from the Water Patrol and the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District. Then there was the problem of where to mount the screen. The organizers couldn’t get permission to put it on shore, so they got a barge instead. Then they had to figure out how to keep the screen’s big inflatable frame from tipping over. The solution? A crane that secures the 500-pound screen.

“Someone was actually popping popcorn out there, and you could smell it floating across the lake,” Vechell said. When the theme song played at the end of the movie, she said, “everybody was singing along.”

It may have taken some extra effort for Andersen and Pillsbury to pull it off, but they created a winner. And, when we can all read stories and comments like those, they clearly document why we can be sure our industry will recover, boaters will remain boaters, and we will continue to bring the enjoyment of the boating lifestyle to America’s families!

For more enjoyment, here’s today’s “How I Discovered Boating” video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf_asPcWwYw

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