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Show at Holiday Marina draws hundreds of boats, many hopeful owners

POSTED: May 16, 2008 5:01 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Mike Ring picks up his son Jack, 2, while strolling through the boats Sunday morning during the Georgia International Boat Show at Holiday Marina.

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If it floats, it was there.

Despite the gloomy economic forecast, boat lovers from all over the state converged on Holiday Marina this weekend to have a gander at the nearly 200 boats sprawled across land and water for the Georgia International Boat Show.

While many of the roughly 1,000 show-goers came to gawk at the pricey watercraft for sale, including a 100-foot houseboat with an approximately $750,000 price tag, some came with check and pen in hand, ready to buy.

And salespeople with the nine boat dealerships on Holiday Road were ready and waiting.

The show featured an array of watercraft ranging in price and size from personal watercraft, pontoons and ski boats to seafaring boats with multiple bedrooms and luxurious cabins.

Although inflated gas prices and low lake levels might deter some from purchasing a new vessel, the unprecedented turnout at the boat show suggested otherwise.

"People need recreation," said Johnny Crowe, owner of WaterSports Central. "I sell someone a boat, and then people call me on Monday morning and say ‘Thank you. Now I have an outlet for all this stress I have Monday through Friday.’"

Crowe said boat sales did slow this past fall, likely due to uncertainty about diminishing lake levels, but in recent months, sales have been normal.

"Yes, we are seeing a little more bank now than we’d like, but it’s still hundreds of feet deep out there, and for the most part, it’s very safe," he said.

"I think folks were waiting to see the lake come back up and now it has, and now they feel comfortable buying boats," Crowe said.

Representatives from boat dealerships said low interest rates and warming weather are probably the factors that contributed most to the high turnout and gradual rise to normal levels of boat sales.

Crowe said many people are now choosing to finance their boat over a period of up to 20 years.

"The boat business is one of the first to see the economy slow down, but we’re also the first to see it come back," he said.

Crowe said the increasing popularity of water sports such as wake boarding have done a lot to jump-start the boating industry. He said many families are investing in ski boats or pontoons that can pull tubers, skiers and wake boarders.

Michele Penland of Ellijay attended the boat show with her family, and said she was looking for a boat "that all eight of us can ride in, one that is preferably red and black."

She said her two children enjoyed tubing and their grandfather was looking to purchase a boat within the next two weeks for family outings.

"We’re trying to get one before school’s out so then we can have fun," Penland said. "I’ve seen lots that I like."

She said the new boat will be the family’s second. They already have a houseboat docked on Lake Lanier, but she said the kids want something that goes a little bit faster.

"Gas prices may determine how far you go in the boat," she said. "So we may have to park the houseboat and just drive this one for a little while."



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