Lake Erie islands boat their way to Cleveland

This year's Mid-American Boat Show at the Cleveland IX Center kicks off today.
Melissa Topey
Jan 16, 2014
Local businesses are dominating at this year’s Mid-America Boat Show at the Cleveland IX Center.

Wednesday morning, employees of Port Clinton-based Happy Days Boating were busy polishing the 23 boats the company will display at the show. Happy Days features popular manufacturers such as Parker, Sport Craft, Tidewater, Baha Cruisers and Striper, and it’s also displaying ProLine for the first time.    

Crews are hoping the hard work pays off, if only to lure some of the 40,000 motivated buyers expected to visit the show today through Monday. “This show gives us an indication of what the year will be like,” Happy Days co-owner Tom Harman said. “You get people who walk up and they can touch them, check them out and ask questions”

That hands-on interaction helps sell boats, he said.

Happy Days has been at every boat show since the event was hosted at the old convention center in downtown Cleveland.

“We do very well here,” Harman said. “We’re expecting a good year”

Want to go?
WHAT:
2014 Progressive Mid-American Boat Show
WHEN: Today through Monday
WHERE: Cleveland’s IX Center
ONLINE: clevelandboatshow.com 
SPECIAL EVENT: Tonight is “Put-in-Bay night,” with favored musicians from Put-in-Bay performing from 7-9 p.m.. Performers include Mike “Mad Dog” Adams, Westside Steve, Ray Fogg and special guest Pat Dailey, the Bard of the Bay.

Click HERE to see where else the island singers are playing this month in Ohio

About 300 boats are on display this year, which is the 54th installment of the boat show.

“About 50 percent of the show is from the Sandusky area,” said Ken Alvey, the boat show’s manager.

Boating generates about $2.5 billion in activity in the Lake Erie area.

On Wednesday, the banners and other signage on display were a veritable snapshot of the Lake Erie Islands market — Hoty Marine, Huron Boat Basin, Holiday Harbor Marina, J&J Sales and many others dotted the sprawling convention center. J&J Sales, which operates in Huron and Port Clinton, had a dozen glistening boats on display, hemmed in by 14 Kawasaki and Sea Doo personal watercraft. J&J employees began hauling the boats and watercraft to the IX Center about two weeks ago.

The effort is worth it. “We’re hoping for lots of sales,” owner Tony Itzo said. This year’s visitors can also see what luxury on the water looks like. Harbor North, of Huron, has a 33-foot Marlow-Hunter sailboat on display at the MidAmerica Boat Show. The vessel oozes class, with rich wood interiors, comfortable seating, a dinette, a bathroom, two sleeping cabins and more.

It leaves a lasting impression, as does its $161,000 price tag.

You can dismiss any thoughts of buying this specific sailboat, however, as it has already been sold and is only being used for display purposes.

But no worries. Harbor North can order the same model if you’re in the market, said Brock Halbeisen, broker for Harbor North.

“I plan on selling another,” Halbeisen joked. “I have to eat”

This year’s high-ticket item at the boat show is the Sima Prestige 450 S, a $879,000 yacht.

Crowds of dreamers and any potential buyers can venture onto the 45-foot yacht to soak in its features: a lounge, a sliding rear-bay roof, two large quarters for sleeping, a washer/dryer unit, a kitchen. It pretty much has everything you’d want for a stylish life on the oceans.

The show also includes seminars and other activities for boaters. Lake Erie University will feature a Cedar Point chef who will teach people how to cook on a boat, and Mark Gagyi will share his knowledge about don’t-miss destinations on Lake Erie.

Quite likely, some hotspots in Erie and Ottawa counties will be on the list.