With a chill wind blowing outside and the threat of snow in the forecast, Steve and Ann White of New Market, Ala., thought Friday would be the perfect time to go boating.
But not on the water, they said. Instead, they chose to check out hundreds of boats dry-docked inside the Nashville Convention Center for this weekend's 25th annual Nashville Boat & Sportshow, which continues through Sunday.
"Well, of course, it's too cold out on the lakes right now, but it's warm and dry in here," said Steve White, 62, a retired financial planner. "This is our third or fourth time to come to the Nashville show, which is our favorite. We came up last night and stayed in Franklin, and did some shopping, too."
The Whites said they're in the market for a pontoon boat to take their grandkids out on Tim's Ford Lake near Tullahoma, just 20 minutes from their home.
While they weren't quite ready to buy at the show, just the fact that they were there looking was good news for the boat dealers they stopped to talk to, a group of businesspeople particularly hard hit by the recession.
"We're seeing an upturn in interest that we haven't seen in a while," said Blanche Wolfard, one of the owners of Drake's Creek Marine Works Inc. in Hendersonville, a major exhibitor at the show. "The boat show kicks off our season, and we're really hoping for a better year in 2011. The downturn has been tough on boat sales in general, and on big boats in particular."
Among the big boats are ones like the 46-foot yacht Drake's Creek Marine has on display in the convention center, which has a special show price of $713,000. It comes complete with a "very nice forward stateroom," Wolfard said.
But there are lower-priced offerings at the company's exhibit as well, including 19-foot runabouts starting under $25,000.
The annual show usually brings several good prospects, even though some don't come ready to buy, said Wolfard, who has been in the businessfor 25 years. "Some of them will show up again when summer starts."
Lavonne Hawkins, 72, of Sewanee was scouring the show for a pontoon boat to replace one that she and her husband, Jerry, have owned for several years.
Read more at http://www.tennessean.com/article/20110108/BUSINESS01/101080308/Turnout+for+Nashville+Boat+&+Sportshow+encourages+vendors