By Cheryl Costello
Things in the world of boat shows haven’t been the same since the COVID-19 pandemic began. From cancellations to location changes, from supply chain challenges to inventory shortages, it’s an interesting time to shop for a boat.
The Progressive Baltimore Boat Show is postponed to 2023, but some upper Bay dealers took it upon themselves to create a brand-new Chesapeake Bay Boat Show in Baltimore County. It gets underway this weekend at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, and organizers say they’re thrilled with the success they’ve seen going into the show.
Bay Bulletin caught up with dealers and vendors on move-in day. The show opens to the public Friday, Jan. 21 and continues through the weekend.
“Boat shows are very important for our business; that’s where we meet our customers,” says Brian K. Schneider, vice-president of Tradewinds Marina in Middle River and president of the Marine Trades Association of Baltimore County (MTABC).
He and other Maryland boat dealers started planning the show less than a year ago. “When we started this show, we were going to be happy if we were half sold. We have completely sold this show out.”
The group of dealers involved in the show has been going to the Baltimore Boat Show at the Baltimore Convention Center downtown for more than 30 years. But they wanted a change.
“We felt the need for a less expensive boat show for the consumer to come into, for the public to come into, for the dealers to go into with free parking,” explains Dave Baumgartner, president of Riverside Marine in Essex. “We felt like we needed to be guaranteed we’d have a boat show and have it yearly on an ongoing basis.”
As for the current market conditions—and inventory challenges—the Chesapeake Bay Boat Show’s organizers want to inform customers face-to-face.
Riverside Marine will have a 2022 Bayliner model on display at the show. “We do have availability on these on order within a reasonable amount of time,” says Baumgartner. “And it’s a very popular model for us.”
But there is a long wait for other brands, as the interest in boating and demand for boats during the pandemic continues. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) says 2022 is expected to be another strong year for new boat sales, with projections to surpass last year by as much as three percent.
“Industry-wide, there are shortages for parts everywhere—engines, windshields, resins,” Schneider says. But the good news from NMMA is that manufacturing productivity is revving back up to meet the demand for new boats, with boatbuilding production nearing pre-pandemic levels.
“We have quite a few boats available at our dealership that the customer could buy and have by April, May, June. We have some boats they can’t get until mid- or late summer,” says Baumgartner.
The show includes 22 boat dealers and over 50 booths, most from the Chesapeake region. In addition to the boats, you can check out a fishing simulator at the show. “Two people can catch at the same time, like you’re going to catch a tuna fish. It’s real-life catching,” Schneider says. There will be fishing seminars, food and daily door prizes.
Organizers are already planning for the show to continue next year. “We will have the same weekend. And as long as the fairgrounds operators are happy with us, we will continue to have a boat show,” says Schneider.
Tickets are $10, and you can buy them online.