This fun photo is from the 2009 Sanpoint show!  Fun stuff.

This fun photo is from the 2009 Sanpoint show! Fun stuff.

This topic today may really piss some folks off. But this is a topic being talked about. So lets talk about it. The facts are that show attendance is down despite the economy being up. And I would add, that the interest in Collectable boats is possibly up! Readership on Woody Boater is way up. Close to 300,000 unique visitors and 2 million hits a year. ACBS membership is steady and repoted at around 7000 members. . But boat shows are all down. Are they down because of all the excuses like the cost to travel, or the time it takes to participate? I argue for the sake of a debate, that its because basically they are boring to new folks and boat owners. Now don’t shoot me here. I am trying to pick a fight. I had a fantastic time at the previous shows I was at. But that’s because I refused to sit on the docks and talk reed and prince screws. Which by the way I did.. I even laughed about it. But do boat shows need to become more active? Is that the reason Sunnyland is so successful? No real judging, and all about being on the water and joking around? Should we have a limited amount of officially judged events and the smaller shows are more for fun? Or maybe it works? The formula has worked for decades?  Anyway.. You know how to do the math and debate!  By the way. I will be the first to say it.. SUNNYLAND IS JUST 6 months away! UGH.. I am not going to make it!

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74 Responses to “Debate Week Part 4 – Are Classic Boat Shows Getting Smaller?”
  1. Texx

    Does the traditional static boat show model / format need a facelift to avoid becoming (more) stale? – and become more dynamic (fun to attend)?

  2. Troy in ANE

    If you follow WB closely you have read two stories now about a wonderful group of Woody Boaters on Lake Cobbosseecontee in central Maine.

    https://www.woodyboater.com/classic-boat-shows/troy-reports-lake-cobbosseecontee/

    https://www.woodyboater.com/classic-boat-art/cobbosseecontee-lake-getaway%E2%80%A8/

    I am part of the second generation of this group and the third generation is very involved and active.

    It has been suggested to us that we start a chapter of the ACBS or become a division of the Cobbossee Yacht Club to which I have replied “We don’t want to be concerned about dues, minutes, and rules, or who’s boat is the most original, has the right screws, or the most varnish. We just want to get together with like minded people, have some coffee and doughnuts, good conversation, and GO BOATING!”

    After all isn’t that what it is all about?

  3. Sean

    Strictly speaking about Southern Ontario…

    Our local ACBS chapter does a fantastic job with our boat show. Last summer they pulled off an all raceboat show, and followed it up this year with another successful show that had an auction experiment added (which didn’t work so well). Point is, they continually look for ways to make it fresh.

    The hard work these folks put in to a show cannot be denied however, I think there’s a shift in our market appeal. The race boats were great, I think the increase in cool plastic boats will add a small bump in popularity but, In my opinion we are still too narrow in focus.

    Launches from the 20’s and 30’s will always be the “blue chip” segment of the shows but we need to look for what interests the younger people. Sort of, Muscle cars instead of model T’s… We just don’t see enough boats that these younger people grew up with and variations on a theme. We need to promote and encourage this type of display and not merely accommodate it.

    Part and parcel with this “level of interest” issue is club activity. To see these boats in a large group run is a great sight that brings interest. For the size of our ACBS chapter they have had only one great outing (Big cruise for a big cause) in recent memory but, most members don’t bring their boats out of the boathouse for anything but the annual show. It’s a pity, really.

    Meanwhile our local Independent club is active with several group runs per season… well attended, inclusive and growing! This club has no official boat show but participates as an exhibit in several waterfront festivals of local towns. A club run usually follows. Its good PR, it’s social and it’s fun.

    To summarize, the ACBS show is an annual institution as much as any cottage country event. Though numbers fluctuate from year to year, It will survive because of the dedicated few that make it happen. Growth and interest is possible through opening focus and greater activity on the water besides the boat show. Increased interest will lead to bigger shows.

    • Sean

      I should add that the Friday Poker run addition to the ACBS show is a great idea (and great fun) to get people out and on the water in a group but, when there’s little more than a dozen attending its disappointing. Especially when there’s somewhere around 100 boats in water the very next day at the show.

  4. Jim Staib

    I think there are more static shows. I used to go to a lot of “Use your boat” events. Seems to be less of them locally. I didn’t put my boat in the water this season. Did bring a cooler of beer to a few events to bum a ride.

      • Jim Staib

        Probably should! I just winterized her yesterday. Sad part was i never put it in the water!! Lot easier to show up with a full cooler. ALWAYS get a ride.

  5. Don Ayers

    Is it just me or is anyone else tired of the $50 rubber chicken plate dinner stuff (Matt you can still have your chicken on a stick). I want more shows that do on-water activities and are not concerned with building coffers.

    Anyone read my recent “From the Club” in the latest Brass Bell about a Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club event??

    How about a place where people just come together, enjoy the boats, buy your own chicken, and celebrate the hobby in all it’s diversity!

    Leave Thurston Howell III and Lovey on the dock…

    • m-fine

      How about we forget the chicken all together, throw some briskets and ribs in the smoker, shrimp on the grill, and put the drinks on ice? Oh, and bacon for breakfast.

      Seriously, having good food choices does make a big difference.

      • Kentucky Wonder

        OOOOHHH!!!! There’s a great idea – a series of boat shows based on regional foods like BBQ brisket (Texas), Smoked whitefish (Great Lakes), Jambalaya (Louisiana), Crabcakes (Maryland), Grilled Salmon (Pacific NW), etc.

        If someone wants to help organize another show in Kentucky, I will supply the BBQ Pork, Chicken, and my hometown specialty, Mutton. We could probably get a couple of the bourbon distilleries to kick in some sample bottles to prime the pump. We also know how to make a really good Mint Julep!

        • Troy in ANE

          Now that sounds like a show I would travel for!

          Sunnyland does a GREAT pulled pork lunch on Friday.

          • FLASH

            I’m in. Is that this weekend or next? Come on Kentucky Wonder…use your magic and make this happen!!!

    • Ronald

      Thank You Thank You Thank You, I have been saying the same thing for a long time, I have attended a dozen or more shows with a boat over the last few years and many more without a boat because of the high cost of entry fees, overpriced chicken/cold ham green bean dinners with a boring or no speaker while you were eating said food, and then having to join the mother club and the local club to attend, I pulled my boat once 800 miles one way to a very popular show after only after they wanted to see pictures of my boat to accept me and my money? Huh what was up with that. The most fun we have had are at the shows with cruises and very little structure. A few years ago a Sea Skiff Club was formed with that same laid back attitude low dues, at shows we all cruised somewhere and at night meals on your own then all meeting in someones room to talk boats or whatever, once Chris Smith swapped a lot of stories, we made a lot of good memories. This in not even including overpriced Hotel/Motel prices around the event. But having said all this I still attend because of the love of the water and Wooden Boats.

    • Alex

      I should hope so. Thurston died in 1989 and Lovey in 1991. Though they’d fit nicely in a big utility if you stacked them vertically.

  6. oldernowiser

    I don’t think the economy is as “up” as the numbers say it is. That’s all I’ll say about that.
    I really appreciate the patience and knowledge of those whose goal is to have their boat “correct” right down to the screws, and to be verified by judging, but that’s not where it’s at for me. It IS all about the boat, but not in that way to me. Mine is not correct but to me is beautiful and I don’t think I could squeeze out any more fun or satisfaction with totally original everything. Chill, have fun, run what ya brung! And of course, as is often verified on Woodyboater….EAT MORE BACON!!

  7. Jack Schneiberg

    I was involved in several boat shows this past season. For one the attendance was up. That show featured a full “prequel” Friday event starting with long boat ride/tour of 3 fairly large connected lakes, lunch served on the deck of the local University Student Union with great food, and finished the day with a fish boil. It was a fun day especially since the weather cooperated. The second show has a lot of side attractions going for it during the show. For that show we also attempted our first ever Friday event. Attendance was down in spite of good weather. A third show suffered the “September Blues” of bad weather and a low turnout. What is the right combination of features that will make continuing shows of a static show a draw. Personally, I take a look at the coming season’s offerings and I think there are just too many shows. I used to anxiously await the shows because they were truly an unusual event and a chance to see boats I would normally never see. Now – I can take my pick and be at a show every weekend within 2-3 hours drive. I think the days of the “static boat show” are numbered. The point being a lot of people have “been there -done that”. I’m all for getting back to events that call for using your boat and having some fun. Good food gratefully accepted, too.

  8. Bjorn B

    The eBay listing of this boat, created a lively discussion on Chris Craft Antique Boat Club’s Facebook page on Oct. 4th. And I wrote then;

    “People chop up early 30’s Ford’s to Hotrod’s, cut the roofline 4 inches on a 50’s Caddie for a lowrider, and the crowd is lining up to see them. A purist myself, but this is a high number production. Let’s bring the color and discussion to the boat show.”.

    “He or she made a cool looking boat, and we’re talking about it. This boat has a place too, maybe next to the boat with documented correct zipper.”

  9. Chad

    Better food choices AND wet T-shirt contests for the ladies in several categories: Pre-War, Post-War, Utility, etc.

    ..AND beer on ice… AND shrimp wrapped in bacon.

    • Mike W

      I’m with Chad. It’s about the festivities. Rides for kids on a boat or on shore. Hands on. Ever see how busy Lowe’s is with kids making birdhouse or something similar on a Saturday morning? It’s a fast paced world and even younger people with money do not have the time or desire to invest, piss money away, on boats. There are many options for disposable income.

      On a more serious note. For the anal retentive crowd. They are Frearson heads made by Reed and Prince. Nobody has chrome oval head machine screws that I can find.

    • m-fine

      How about large u4 shrimp (4 to a lb) with a crab cake stuffing and a bacon wrap, cooked over charcoal?

  10. RiverRat

    Unfortunately I have very little disposable time during the boating season. My user Lymans are not up to the standard of all those fancy carvel planked boats and I am more interested in hanging out with lapstrakes which seem to be missing in the shows that are close to me. There is no way I would travel very far to attend a show, towing a boat due to the cost in time and related expenses. Woody Boater is my boat show. Thanks

    • Doug P in the PNW

      I agree with River Rat.
      I see more interesting boats and meet more interesting people on Woody Boater

    • Paul H.

      I have had my very user ’65 skiff in three International shows – mostly because it is a great social boat and it never has been and never will be judged. It is great to hang in at the dock and to go out in the water. Another example is M-fine’s Penn Yan which did great service at this years’ International and it is not a show boat. It is a mistake to think that a boat must be pristine to enter a show. I go out of my way to encourage user boats at the show we organize in BC.

      • BK

        I agree Paul…Static shows are boring…Boats are 2B used and seen…but not affixed to the docks….Of coarse with that said..The age old question regarding shows is are they for us (the boat owners) or are they for the public? I prefer the former (for us) I also agree and encourage that all boats show up-both user and the “hermitically” sealed types. Show the boats, let the “mob” ogle and awe over them, then get out and have fun….

  11. Andreas Jordahl Rhude

    Part of the problem is that there are so MANY boat shows now. I bet in the past decade ten new shows have popped up just in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. There are some weekends with two or three shows going on at the same time. People have to choose which one to attend.

    The static boat show at the docks is boring. That does not attract people that want to use the boats. The boat show mentioned by Jack S. above that has a full day of boating with fun stuff going on (Madison, WI by the way) is attractive. I go to it cause there is lots of use of the boats. Sitting at the docks is OK sometimes and OK for a short period of time, but there must be more actual boating activities.

    I also think judging is a turn off to many people. I can live without it. The Thompson Antique & Classic Boat Rally does very well without any judging or awards.

    Andreas in Peshtigo, WI about 300 feet away from the old Thompson Boat factory

  12. Wilson

    I have not been to Madison, although I did watch the movie by the same name but Andreas and others are right…It is the opportunity to use the boats that stimulates attendance. Somebody commented the other day that the pre-events at ACBS annual meets are the stimulus for attending…that’s the time when the boats are on the water and in use. I remember my first ACBS annual meet in St. Louis. There was no pre-event and 58 people attended. For organization nuts like me it was enjoyable, I met some new people and we got a few things done but for many it was a boring two days.
    Sunnyland has been mentioned a couple of times. The show starts with a five day cruise down the St. Johns River and during the show there is a run thru the canopy covered Dora Canal to the picnic lunch and back and the show ends with a trip back up the St. Johns. It’s that kind of thing that attracts boaters….Of Course the fact that there is a huge flea market and a field of dreams and a few woody cars certainly adds to the incentive.
    As for the rubber chicken…Well, maybe the fact that Sunnyland has the bar well stocked and gets Carrabbas to cater the dinner adds to the flavor and enjoyment.
    There are a lot of little things that can add to a boat show….but in my view, getting to use the boat after you are there is the real incentive to bring one.

    • Randy

      … uhhh Wilson, the movie “Madison” you are referring to was about the town in Indiana (rather than WI).
      Boat shows do need to retain a large part of their ‘static’ nature, otherwise there will be nothing to draw the boatless public. During certain parts of the day public rides could be arranged to introduce them to the joys of this hobby, plus give owners a chance to show off their ‘babies’!

  13. Dennis Mykols

    Dam, I wish I had more time to chime in here at length, but I have been on the road all week and got a lot of office catch up to do this am.
    But I will say, boat shows are boring with out time to use my boat. I hate traveling several hours at 12 mpg at $4.00 per gallon, then pay $150.00 per night for a normally $75.00 per night room, ALL for 1 or 2 engine hours on my boat!!!
    When Ronnie and I started to attend Classic show back in 2010, we went to several shows each year, 13 in 2012 alone!
    But we were so disappointed in some, but loved others. Why, the opportunity to USE our boat in organized and un- organized events.
    My 2 cents, 1. those shows that do not allow you to run your boat during the show hours, and
    2. provide pre-post events to use your boat, and /or
    3. those shows that “ONLY” allow WOOD boats in their shows; will DIE OFF in the next several years, period.

  14. Martin

    I was talking with an ACBS official a few weeks back and they were saying that its believed that we loose a lot of people because of the judging. Example! Some guy does a knock out restoration on a boat comes to the show has it judged and is not even mentioned at award time. He leaves pissed off and says “The hell with them” and never comes back. I can sympathize with that. I was a Bay Harbor in 2010 with my prewar runabout that was a knowen boat in the hobby that had been in very rough condition for years. I bought it and we reworked every component. I understand that I was in battle ship row at that show. But for a 27 year old to by a prewar boat and due a nut a bolt restoration with help for professionals I thought was a great accomplishment and what the hobby is trying to attract. I did not leave pissed off. But when the judge gave me his business card and said bring your boat to me if you want to try and win next time. That really turned me off. I came home and corrected everything that I was dinged on in the judging. I want to be part of ACBS and the shows. But do feel shoved out, but the overriding powers most of the time. I hear that some changes on in the works and that might be a positive step forward.

    • Mike W

      We were at the car/boat show that summer with our 1969 35SC Commander, hull #1, but not the ACBS show. A deserving 41 Aluminum Roamer won an award. I don’t even think they walked down the dock or even acknowledge we were there. It was next to a 1969 23 Commander. Both are and were very nice boats. You can get a glimpse of both around the 35 second mark of the video. I have no interest in ever going back to that one for many reasons. Good cause and many good people. Just not for us. There are many others.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5Rt7s8kBqM

    • Paul H.

      I would disagree with the acbs losing many due to judging, but we certainly lose some. The fact is that about half the shows are not judged (perhaps more) and at judged shows, it is frequently not a large number of registrants that have the boats judged. I actually think the amount of time spent talking about judging and judged shows is disproportionate to the numbers of people who actually are interested or involved in judging.

      I can also tell you with certainty that the acbs is keenly interested in expanding recognition for deserving boats and owners at judged events, and is actively investigating ways of doing this as we speak. I very strongly believe that we need to recognize efforts such as yours, and I can also tell you that many at the ACBS share this view.

      • BK Powell

        I agree that at most shows the judged boats are but a few of the total. As an example, at our summer show in Sand Point ID, we average about 60 boats-the number for the boats being judged is (typically) less than 30%, about 18 boats. Attendees have a choice to be judged or not…

  15. Mark

    Yes Randy. I was at the Meredeth show as well and did not see hardly any runabouts. I agree with the amount of shows and the scheduling conflicts as many might have travelled to the 50th Lake George show instead. In my few experiences with local Northeast shows the owners are not even with the boats to talk to spectators and cretainly not inclined to offer any rides.

    Mark

  16. Dick Dow

    Not only are shows that are open to using the boats more interesting for participants, it makes a huge difference for the attending public. The sounds, seeing the boats up on plane, (even at a distance) jumping to avoid the inevitable “first fire shower” when a boat starts, all bring wide smiles to those watching. Not to mention the “We have an open seat…” invitation to the person on the dock when one gets ready to go out for a bit. That is the essence of boating.

    Participation at a typical weekend show where one has to get a hotel room for three nights, the meals, registration, towing costs, etc., is going to run close to $1K for a participating couple, and that doesn’t count the inevitable bored spouse shopping syndrome… It’s imperative the shows be made as interesting as possible in order to remain viable.

    I certainly don’t have the answer to the basic question and can only respond based on experience and what I personally like. In addition to the things mentioned above, the setting is crucial, with open water access, good parking, close launching, adequate facilities and good food availability – the more convenience and ambiance, places for people to meet and do things off the dock, the better the chance the show will prosper.

    Improving economy or “spin”? – Don’t get me started on that!

    Remember – When the going gets tough, the tough go boating… 🙂

    • Dennis Mykols

      The down side of more user events at local boat shows, is getting more volunteers to help out with poker runs, kids events, local cruises, etc.

  17. robert

    Show me a regional ACBS chapter that focuses the majority of it time and energy on a boat show and I will show you a static or dying chapter. Things have changed in this hobby.
    rob

  18. Mike Green

    There is so much talk about bringing a boat to a show and then someone (an official) telling you you can’t use you boat I would like them to list them for me and the rest of us. I know of only 2 shows that say you should not use your boat during the show and they both have a good reason for it. What are some of the other shows?

  19. Dennis Mykols

    this years annual event in New York. I was told by Kirk Smith on Thursday, no boats can go out on Friday or Saturday.
    Then all I saw all day long on Friday were people using there boats… Saturday also, but weather cut it way down.

    Another is Hessells each year.

    • Alex

      Dennis and Mike. Yep, The Les Cheneaux Classic Boat Show in Hessel is a “do not operate” one. They cite liability / insurance concerns, though other shows allow boats to start / run and somehow get coverage. The main reason for not running boats in Hessel, though, is lack of space. The harbor is jammed with boats on display, many of them physically tethered together or hemmed in by others. The only boats that could move are those parked, say, near the ends of the docks. Yes, they could move, but with so many boats in the harbor, the risk of collision is elevated.

      I sure wish Hessel could be more like Tavares, where boats come and go. But it doesn’t work for our area.

      That said, at Show’s end, there is no finer boat show moment — perhaps anywhere in the country — than standing on the end of the Hessel Marina pier and watching scores of boats all fire up and depart.

      They don’t head to the ramp to be pulled, mind you. They head home by water. One after another after another. So much fun to see!

  20. Jack Schneiberg

    I’ve read through the comments today. My first reaction – taking the week as a whole – is that Matt and Texx have developed one hellava format for discussions like this. Why aren’t the items discussed here on this forum this week discussed at ACBS, Chris Craft Club, and Century Boat Club meetings. Oopps, other marques too! Perhaps they are and I’m just ignorant. If I were to submit a format for boat show weekends, it might go something like this: Everyone who is registered to show has to be registered to go. That means on Friday the event takes to the water. Boats are run in some type of format (be it a poker run, river run, or just around the lake.). Why not have a “Captain’s Challenge” and judge the Captains of the boats on their operating proficiency? As for the rest of the judging, I suggest their be a “best of” category for the “Marque” participants and that’s it. Let’s face it, the majority of boats shown at any show are going to be Chris Crafts. They proliferate! Then, let say there are 3-4-5 Concurs events at specified locations through out the country. At these events the judges can go nuts with their points off 0r points plus and those attending those shows know they are going to be subject to critical finishing details. Meanwhile, the rest of us can go have fun by dropping our boats in the water and having a grand old time. Each Chapter, Club, or event presenter can create their own format and work out the details based on feedback and participation. One last detail to be addressed. As we all know we have become a “litigious” society. If you are an ACBS Chapter their is liability coverage available to cover incidents that happen at your boat show. You may need additional coverage to go “romping around” the lake or up the river. But…check with your insurance company. I don’t think any coverage out there prohibits you taking someone for a ride in your boat – UNLESS – you try and charge for it. So, finally, you’ve have your Friday boat fun and on Saturday morning you shine the “old gal” up and display – seeking only one reward (if you care). Boat parade time comes and you move off the dock with 2-3-6 people on board who are about to experience what its all about. 20-40-60 boats head out with passengers. All converts at the end of the ride if you run your boat the way it was designed to run in the first place by people who didn’t give a sh*t about awards or sitting at the dock.

    • Paul H.

      Hi Jack – As I am on the BOD’s of two of the organizations you mention, I feel I am qualified to answer your question: They Are – vigorously and frequently.

      There is change afoot – there has to be and it will continue. Change is sometimes not overnight, but these items are high profile topics for the hobby groups (well, maybe not fiberglass bottoms so much) but they are on the agenda. The next ACBS BOD meeting is in two weeks and some of these items will be on the agenda there, I am sure.

  21. FLASH

    I have only attended one actual boat show, a couple of times but still the same show, and think that there should be limited static time. The Bluegrass Chapter of the ACBS tries really hard to make a fun weekend out of it. They have several events lined up including a Poker Run, boat shop and car collection tours, etc. The static portion is kept to 4 hours which is just about long enough. This gives the public a good chance to view the boats and lets the owners do whatever it is they choose to do. If you enjoy looking at your boat on the dock, stay back and enjoy, if you want to empty Kentucky Wonder’s bar from the “Princess Seat”, go ahead. My point is, like many other’s here, I didn’t build my boat to sit idle, I want to burn some fuel and have fun with new found friends.

    • Kentucky Wonder

      As for the Bluegrass Rendezvous, I think there are plans in the works already for next years’ event. Lake Cumberland offers a lot of places to explore, and one idea is to go explore a new destination each morning and afternoon of the event. This would be a chance to either take your boat out for a good run at least twice per day, or crawl in someone else’s ride and enjoy the view from the passenger seat. Just do not let Flash lead the outings, because that boat tends to leave the rest of the group far behind in his wake.

      Oh, and the Princess Seat is often open. Donations for restocking the bar gratefully accepted.

  22. Mike

    I am new to the hobby and attended two ACBS events in Michigan (sans boat). There were lovely boats and nice people, but I was underwhelmed. The first event was like visiting a museum, …. on AARP day (no kids, very few in the 30s/40s). The second could have been as bad as the first except, they were giving RIDES. No cost, no muss, no fuss, sign-up here and get a ride on a Woody. That was great. Me and my two daughters (4 and 9) got to experience a Woody (we could touch it, sit on it, and ride it).

    To be fair, I kind of got the same museum feeling at two classic car shows I visited. I can’t count how many “Don’t touch” signs I saw. Why are these shows open to the public at all?

    I have hope however, that the fun and sharing will win out over the “look but don’t touch” crowd.

  23. Brian Flaherty

    At Mahogany & Merlot on Lake Chelan we have a mix of static boat show with running vintage hydroplanes! I think this is beneficial for both groups as neither show would make it without the other. People come to see the beautiful boats at the docks, then stay to watch the hydros. Others come to watch the hydros and walk the docks while the hydros have all their necessary down time… However, for the runabouts, it is a “static” show from 9 to 4 we only get to use our boats during the hydro’s lunch break… We had every operational boat ready and loaded at noon and took about 30 boats out in a parade to show all the spectators around the lake. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t see anyone offering rides and many boats where shockingly empty. I invited a family to come with us (we have a utility and seating for 8). The smiles on the two teenagers faces was awesome!! They loved that they got to go for a boat ride and they really liked being up close to all the other boats running around the race course!! Now, unless the organizers can get permission for the runabouts to actually run, we will not be returning for a few years as the toddlers don’t like sitting on the beach all day… We like to go fast!!!

    • Texx

      Thanks Jack – Subjects like this need to come out of the shadows and be put on the table for public discussion. – Texx

  24. Michael A. Hill

    Every topic so far this debate week has had this one common denominator: Judged Showings.

    Fiberglass the bottom?”Well, Here comes the Judge!!–Shame on you!!!” A proud amateur trying to play at the professionals game? “Well here comes the Judge!!–Shame on you!!” Want a motor that”s powerful, efficent, reliable AND somewhat enviromentally friendly? ‘Here comes the Judge!!–Shame on you!!

    And so today we should say “Here comes the Judge!!–There goes the people!! Shame on the Judged Shows!!

    I’ve been involved in ‘classic boating’ , per se, ALL my life. And I can say that I’ve never participated in a judged show that I enjoyed. And no, Im not some whining sore loser. Not at all. It was the atmosphere of pretense that finally drove me away. I like to boat. I enjoy people who like to boat. Showing isn’t boating, and boating that’s enjoyable for all isn’t showing.

    The name of the site is “Woody Boater”, not “Woody Show-er”. And what I’ve enjoyed most here are the many features and photos of cool, unusual boats and boaters, being enthusiastically used and enjoyed I really could care less for the “show-ers”. And I know there are those that will say that so many of the “show-ers” are boaters too. And maybe a few are. But let’s not kid, most are not. Most are boat house or trailer queens. Ten minutes watching them try to maneuver to dock for the show confirms that.

    Thats why I left the show scene years ago. I use my boats and they get used, and sometimes even abused. I make them way I want them to be, properly safe and sound, within the spirit of what I believe the designers intended. I’m not in this to impress anyone, just to enjoy. Its just a boat. I don’t let other’s expectations leverage ownership of my own vessel of enjoyment. I have fun instead!!

    And while I’m stirring the pot, so to speak, I’ll add one last little observation. While I truly believe that “judged shows” push people away from classic boating and that a drop in boat show attendence is in part due to this, boating (particularly powerboating) in general is in decline. Good economy or not, fuel prices or not, boating in general is dying off with us boomers. Look around your local marina and take an honest assessment of the ratio between the “under 40” crowd to the “over 40 crowd”. Hell, take a look at the ‘under 60” over 60’ ratio!! Younger people are not as interested as we were or our parents were. And if they are interested in something beyond a jet ski or a kayak, they’re interested in boats that can be used like a car: Turn the key and go, park it and walk away. Many of the big-time boat builders such as Sea Ray and Tiara are talking with open concern about their future customer base. They know whats happening.

    So if classic boating is to survive, it has to focus on broad-based inclusive fun for everyone. Stuffy shows with fattest-checkbook chalices just aren’t going to do it

    • Texx

      Well said Michael – thanks for sharing your thoughts with us here at Woody Boater.

  25. matt

    Dang Michael, best comment of the week! Thanks so much for joining the debate.

  26. JFunk

    Boat shows (both local and national) are like any other event, in that they evolve over time, incur cycles, and frequent changes need to occur to keep them fresh and interesting to continually draw attendees. This is the challenge. Jan and I prefer shows with variety…opportunities to use your boat in organized events, viewing the boats all together as a group (while talking with their owners), and then the social events. Yes, shows ae more expensive now…as is everything else. That said, show organizers must understand boaters are looking for entertainment value when choosing which show to attend, or if they go at all.

  27. Ed F.

    On average the older generations have more time and money to devote to boat shows and classic boating. The younger generations have way more choices of how to spend their “free time”. Little League, soccer, Rocket football on and on, times however many kids they have. I think that’s where a lot of choices for small local shows will help develop our hobby. Not all of us can take 3-4 or more days several times a year, spending thousands of dollars to attend destination shows. The local one day show gives busy families an opportunity to enjoy our hobby and gradually get sucked in. Two of our boys and all four of our grand daughters love the boats and the shows but due to other activities they are only able to attend a couple times a year. As the age I think their interest and available time will grow. As for judging, I enjoy and learn from it even though it can be extremely frustrating when one “expert” judge gives you a list…you correct the items listed and the next “expert” judge tells you the things you just changed are wrong and should be the way you had them previously. Another problem I see with judging is that the rules have been a moving target i.e. 5200 bottom acceptance. I love the shows, the opportunity to travel to new destinations, experience new water and for the most part, the competition. I also think there is room for a category similar to the car worlds Restoration-Mod class that allow for freedom of choice.

  28. Wilson

    Going back to the middle…I wonder what is happening in New Hampshire…The first time I went to Merideth ( Actually it was Weirs Beach) in ’82 I was like a kid in a candy shop…I had a new boat in need of restoration…I remember showing up on the dock about 8:30 AM and boats started coming from across the lake and kept coming for almost an hour.. and I found one just like mine and took hundreds of pictures. The disappointing part was the awards ceremony was a across the lake on Sunday…and no one went by boat…They all drove cars. Several years later, I was the only boat to go to the awards program by boat ( what did I know, I’m from Florida) and there was virtually no place to tie up…Good news, I had distributor troubles on the way back and Mark Mason to the rescue with parts and offer of a boat ride to dinner Monday night. Thanks Mark.

  29. mikeS

    There has been a lot of change in boat shows I’ve attend in the last 24 years. The first show in 1991 was basically a big party with a side order of vintage craft. The selection of boats varied from the pre-war triples to the racing runabouts of the early ’50s. Sure, there were the competitors, and they won their trophies, but a good time was had by all. Lots of time spent on the water. The average age of participants was around 45- 50, as was the age of the boats.

    Over the years it became more expensive to put on a show and sponsors became necessary. Sponsors need space to display, this all creates more work for the club. Fast forward 20 years, and your original participants are now 65-70 years of age and over that 20 years many of them have held an administrative position in the club more than once and are more than ready to pass the torch. We have seen a decline in those members bringing boats to our show. Some have just moved on into other hobbies. When our club was established in 1985 a Chris Craft Cobra was only 30 years old. With that same time frame in mind, we have to realize that a boat built in 1974 is now 40. There was a ’64 Bertram at this year’s show that was incredible. It was owned by a family in their 40s or early 50s. See the pattern? We all did our best to make them feel welcome. They are part of the future of the hobby.

    Unfortunately today’s shows don’t last into the wee hours of the morning anymore. I actually think each year people try to decrease the time it takes to break down and put everything away after the chapter president thanks everyone for coming. Kinda like bettering your time for the 100yd dash.

    It is very important to get a younger generation involved if the clubs are expecting to survive another 20 years. By then I’ll be in the 60-65 group and my son will be dragging me to shows.

  30. thomas d

    the ecomony is up? where? mike hill, you read my thoughts. what i see in my area is mostly the dreaded jetskis (pecker knats) and wakeboard boats. young people have no interest in slow no room wood boats but most if not all have never even seen a woody or know what one is. you wouldn’t believe how many think mine is made of fiberglass.

  31. Murray Parnell

    As events planer for The Trent Severn Antique and Classic Boat Association and organizer of many boat shows the big boat show are getting harder to sell.This year the TSACBA went to a few town festivals to display our boats and enjoy the surroundings then we also incorporate a run in the afternoon.This group enjoys using their boats more than showing them.The next problem with the shows is the politics and what is allowed not to mention the Judging end of some shows.If you look at the Car shows they also are down but the 2-3 HR Cruise Nights are way up, our local Monday cruise night will bring aprox 100 plus cars every week, but try and get 80 boats to a once a year show.The car shows are now mostly 70s muscle cars or latter Hot Rods owned by guys in mid 50s-60s.If I take my 1971 Checkmate that I bought when I was 17 to a boat show it is frowned on but this and the Sidewinders and J Crafts are what my kids in their 20s remember.The Long Deck Launches are nice to look at but how many of us had one at the cottage,we need to see more variety with the newer Glass and custom boats that will keep the new Generation interested The big trend now is lets use our boats in many different lakes and have fun