THE “BOAT SHOW” IS BACK
By Mike Schoonveld
The last big, crowded event I attended before the first Covid-19 lockdowns were instituted in 2020 was the Ford Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show. I’ve attended the “boat show,” as it’s commonly called across Indiana, for more years than most of you have been alive. In my annual calendar of things to do, this show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds was one of the things looked forward to most so it was also one of the events I missed most last year as we self-distanced from many, once-taken-for-granted opportunities during the pandemic.
Things are still not normal compared to pre-pandemic times, but far better than in the early days of the outbreak when little was known and few options were available. So when I got the news the “Boat Show” is returning to Indianapolis in February of 2022, it seemed a giant step towards normalcy. I couldn’t have been more excited and I’m sure thousands of Hoosiers across the state are equally excited about the show.
Normal, however, doesn’t mean the show is going to be just like the shows of past years or past decades. One year’s show has never been identical to the previous year’s show as new things are phased in while others disappear. The most notable for some people for 2022 will be the disappearance of Monday and Tuesday in the show schedule. Previous year’s shows always ran ten continuous days. This year, the show will be Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Feb 18 to 20; then Wednesday to Sunday, February 23 to 27.
This new schedule isn’t expected to cut the overall attendance. The Ford Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show will continue to be one of the largest shows of its kind in the country and will still allow the full allotment of days for the traditional final four days featuring the Indiana Deer, Turkey and Waterfowl Expo. This event will be held in the fairground’s Exposition Hall.
The split dates will also allow some attractive options for the exhibitors in the other five buildings of the show. Most of the exhibitors and vendors will be at the show all eight days, answering your questions and displaying their opportunities. Some however, will be there only on the first few days, after which their booths will be refilled by providers of other outdoor services for the final five days of the show.
This is a great opportunity for the thousands of people who purchase the discounted two-day tickets. Go on one of the early days, then come back during the final segment and see something new. All types of tickets are available at the box office entrances but additional savings are offered to people who buy tickets online ahead of time. Check it all out at: www.indysportshow.com.
One of the surprises of the pandemic – a good surprise – was that individuals as well as whole families turned to the outdoors to satisfy their recreational desires. Boat sales were up, in both the new boats and previously owned boat segments of the boating industry. This includes everything from paddle-sports – canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and rowboats – to motorized boats in all sizes and categories. RV sales were up. Campgrounds were full.
This also included an unprecedented spike in fishing and hunting license sales. Prior to 2020 the DNR’s license sales were stagnant or declining.
I learned this personally in the spring of 2020 when I went to marinas and boat ramps in my area to go fishing. I adopted the motto, “Wednesday is the new Saturday,” and when I was gathering a few fishing friends to head out for a day on the lake, I made sure we left extra-early to ensure we could get launched ahead of the crowds, as well as to find a spot for my truck and trailer in the parking lot.
I also realized my first “supply chain” issues. I stopped by a Cabela’s store to pick up a few snap-swivels and other general supplies in early summer and found them sold out in most of the popular sizes with no good guess of when the re-supplies would show up – and it wasn’t just snap-swivels.
Things are better now, but still not normal and a trip to the boat show will be a great chance to find out how close to normal things are. Make a trip through Tackle Town (Elements Financial Blue Ribbon Pavilion) to stock up on staples you know you’ll need for the upcoming season, then if plans for something “bigger” is in your future, visit the RV section, any of the 25 boat dealers who will be there or stop by any of the dozens of resorts, outfitters and destinations to plan a fishing or hunting trip, a family vacation or perhaps that trip of a lifetime to Alaska, Canada or even Africa. I know you have questions – the Ford Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel show is where to get the answers.
One of the reasons the DNR and private conservation organizations sponsor special hunts and beginner fishing events is because they know many people, given the chance to participate in hunting, fishing or other outdoor activities, will “try it and like it.” One of the few silver linings to the covid pandemic was how many new participants to traditional outdoor sports were recruited. If one of those new recruits is you or if you are one of the thousands of Hoosiers who go to the “boat show” every year, the doors will be open for eight days in February. Tickets are available at the door or save a few bucks and order them in advance at: www.IndySportShow.com.