From paddle boats to pontoons, the Hartford Boat Show gives guests the chance to compare the newest inventory side-by-side and the organizers say there is something for every one.
This year, there are 30 new exhibitors and 250 boats docked at the Convention Center. Many exhibitors return year after year.
“Introducing ourselves to a large group of people where at our showroom we don’t get the opportunity to see as big of an audience at one time,” Chris Perry, of Candlewood East Marina in Brookfield, said.
Whether you want to sail the shoreline or drop a line in a lake, boats big and small fill two levels of the convention center this year.
“It’s fun. You get to see all the boats that come out, check ‘em out,” said Carol Hall, who visited from Vernon.
Lori Schwager, of Manchester, said the boat show is an annual tradition for her and her friends.
“We always come with friends. We’re all boaters. We all have boats. We just come to see what’s new and exciting,” Schwager said.
Boating is big business in the state.
“It’s a $1.3 billion industry here in Connecticut,” Hartford Boat Show Executive Director Kathleen Burns said.
When the economy took a dive, so did recreational sports, like boating. However, Burns said it’s growing again.
“The economy’s improving, there’s a little more optimism, fuel prices are lower, and so I think people are more comfortable now returning to a recreation they love,” said Burns.
This year’s boat show is the biggest in a decade. Visitors now navigate two floors of boats, parts, seminars and exhibits.
One of the new interactive exhibits at the Hartford Boat Show is a virtual fishing tournament. Guests actually compete with each other. The top prize is a fishing trip.
Then there’s the famous fish fighting chair, which has been entertaining pint-sized anglers at the boat show for decades. You can find it under the large shark that hangs from the ceiling upstairs. The “bait” is tied to the end of a fishing pole and tries to run to away before the adult on the other end of the pole reels them in.
“I just fought like a fish all the way to the sticker to Blackhawks and I got a free fishing trip,” Nicco Frogameni, of Niantic, said. “I thought I was never gonna make it.”
Kyleigh Lapsis, of Mansfield, said "it was hard."
Organizers know not everyone will walk out of the Convention Center with a boat. The show also gives visitors the chance to step aboard a boat they may only dream of owning, or start a new sport like kayak or paddle boarding.
The show runs through Sunday in downtown Hartford. Tickets are $12. You can get $2 off when you show you have the NBC Connecticut app at the door.
The boat show is open until 9 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. More information is available at hartfordboatshow.com.