The Tulsa Boat Sport and Travel Show persevered through a recession and survived last year's blizzard; this year it's looking forward to pleasant weather and profits.
"I don't think we could stand another year like last year," said the show's president, Phil Keeter. "It's interesting, the economy is not a lot better but (the dealers) are so upbeat it's almost unbelievable."
Change has been a constant in his 56 years with the show, but last year was history making, he said. "In all that time we've had two or three years with ice or snow and it was tough, but never in all that time did we as much as last year with that heavy snowfall, it was just a killer."
There were bright spots even last year, however. Stan Jones, co-owner at Nichols Marine, said his biggest sale of the show - topping $600,000 - came on the worst night. "That was that Wednesday night with the real heavy snowfall, but nothing was keeping that guy away," he said.
Jones said he thinks the weather this year might actually be a little too nice. "You want it really cold but with dry pavement," he said. "If it's too nice people think about going out to do other things."
He also has his own theory on economics and luxury items like boats and RVs. "This doesn't really relate directly to the economy. There is nothing in this building you really need, it's all the stuff you really want. We're all addicts, and we supply the drug."
The drugs of choice that bring more people into the show these days are added features, Keeter said. "Shows now need to have more entertainment value," he said. Those features come with appearances by The History Channel's "Swamp People" Trapper Joe and Trigger Tommy, demonstrations by the Smage Brothers, who caught the nation's eye with their trick motorcycle riding routine on NBC's "America's Got Talent," and the popular Family Fun Splash Zone with paddle boats, archery, and paintball guns (shooting foam balls). "We have more fishing demonstrations this year as well. Every hour on the hour Saturday," he said.
The favored elixirs on the show floor this year are expected to be pontoon boats and fifth-wheel RVs, Keeter said. "The lower level this year is like a sea of pontoon boats," he said. Keeter pointed out two main factors that favor fifth-wheels and pontoons. These are family oriented purchases and they generally are "south of $100,000 instead of north of $100,000."
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