From the Calendar

Central New York Boat Show to showcase largest upstate selection of boats

Lucy Naland | Presentation Director

Ten years ago, Drew Wickham never thought of becoming a boater. Not only does he own a boat now, but Wickham also manages the largest boat show in Upstate New York — the Central New York Boat Show.

This four-day boat show will showcase more than 500 new models of power and sail boats from over 50 boat dealers. They will be on display and available for purchase at the New York State Fairgrounds from Feb. 16 to Feb. 19.

Founded in the 1960s, the CNY Boat Show is owned by the Boating Industries Association of Upstate New York, an organization comprised of independent marine dealers from the Central New York area. The association sponsors the boat show, and all of its members participate in the show.

“The show was just to get products out in front of customers and put on a one-stop shopping event, so folks can come and look at all the boating products,” Wickham said. “And it’s continued and grown to what it is today.”

During its formative years, the boat show took place at the Oncenter War Memorial Arena. Now, it displays boats in three buildings at the New York State Fairgrounds — the Center of Progress, the Horticulture Building, and the Exhibit Center building.

Barb Caster, executive secretary of the boating association, has attended the boat show for almost 40 years. Caster participated in the show from 1976 to 1986 as an exhibitor.

“The show has really evolved in the number of marinas that are showing,” Caster said. “I’ve really seen it grow and the reason for that growth is the interest of boats, and the marinas have evolved because of that.”

The event will showcase almost every type of boat, including cruisers, sport boats, pontoon boats, personal watercraft and docks.

Although the CNY boat show is most popular among boaters, the show also draws in people who aren’t familiar with boating. A boating information center will provide safety information about boating, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Syracuse will educate people on boating in open waters.

“I always say it’s a great place to learn about boating,” Wickham said. “If there’s anything you think you’re interested in, come on in and talk to our dealers about what’s involved in boating and get some information.”

For entertainment, the show will host Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, a privately funded zoo and animal rescue. The zoo will display dozens of their reptiles and hold educational seminars throughout the show’s run.

Fowler’s Marina, one of the exhibitors in the show, has been involved with the boat show for more than 20 years. Kristy Fowler-Ritter, manager of the marina, says the location of the boat show makes it ideal for their Syracuse and Rochester customers.

“It’s centrally located within the state, so we have a lot of participation from across New York,” Fowler-Ritter said.

The family-owned and operated marina has been in business for 35 years, and sells pontoon boats, boat line, personal watercraft and watercraft boats. This year, the marina plans to display a new line of pontoon boats.

As one of the longest-running dealers in the show, Fowler’s Marina provides rental boats, allowing visitors to test-drive their boats in the water. The CNY boat show will also hold in-water demonstrations for visitors.

Along with those services, Fowler-Ritter says the boat show is an opportunity for people to check out a wide variety of boats.

“The show brings all the dealers together so people can do comparisons between the different models they’re looking for,” Fowler-Ritter said. “It also brings customers all to one location, instead of having to look go all over the state for boats.”

Caster encourages college students to attend the boat show, and looks forward to a new line of boats that might interest a younger audience. This year, the show will showcase surfboard boats that can simulate a wake behind the boat.

While boats will be on display throughout the show, there will also be a seminar presented by Capt. Tony Buffa at the Center of Progress Building on Thursday at 7 p.m. Buffa, who offers fishing charters in central New York, will give an informal talk about fishing at Oneida Lake.

In addition to selling boats, Wickham hopes the seminar and exhibitors will educate people about the boating industry.

“Boating is not for the elite, which is a misconception out there, that you have to have mega-dollars to boat,” Caster said. “The thing about boating is that you can go out in the water and forget about what’s going on in your life — it’s amazing that not more people are taking advantage of this.”

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