Although Covid appears to be our permanent companion, it can't stop the outdoors show from going onstage.
The first event on the agenda is the 41st annual Marine Expo Friday through Sunday at the Statehouse Convention Center. Although it's mid January, boaters consider this event the first harbinger of spring.
Ken Griffey, Arkansas Marine Expo promoter, said no covid mandates are in place for this year's show. That restores the Marine Expo to its original objective of enabling customers to buy boats, boat-related services and boating destination travel at the year's best prices.
"Inventory is back up," Griffey said. "Manufacturers are making boats, and there's a surplus we haven't seen in awhile."
Because inventory is at maximum supply, dealers are motivated to sell, Griffey said. That makes winter the best time to buy a new boat.
"You can choose the color, the floor plan, the style and model that fits your budget," Griffey said. "If you wait until summer to make your purchase, that surplus might be gone. You might not have the luxury of choosing the boat that suits your needs."
In 2021-22, Griffey said the Marine Expo followed stringent safety guidelines. State mandates have been lifted, so the show will have the same appearance and flow as pre-covid editions. Masks will not be required for entry, Griffey said, but he said he encourages showgoers to wear them if it makes them feel safer.
Despite supply chain issues, Griffey said that vendors will display 2023 boat models and that customers will be able to buy current models on site. Vendors attending will be Bradford Marine, Futrell Marine, Gregg Orr Marine, Lacey Marine, Sunrise Marine, Brooks Marine and Get Outdoors. Also present will be representatives for boat lift and boat slip manufacturers, as well as representatives for boating related travel.
"Last year, during covid, boat sales went through the roof and depleted inventory," Griffey said. "Now the manufacturers have caught up. The boat show will be filled with new boats that will be available to consumers. New boats are arriving daily to dealerships. A consumer that wants to come out and purchase a boat will have that opportunity."
Because boaters have such an emotional investment in their boats, the Marine Expo is a custom service that instills confidence in the purchase, Griffey said.
"We live in an Amazon world, but a boat is something you need to see, something need to touch with your family present to make sure you get the color and style and model that suits your family," Griffey said. "Having all of this under one roof is such an advantage to the consumer because you don't have to drive all over Arkansas to negotiate individually. It's a great opportunity to establish a relationship with a boat dealer before you purchase."
On Sunday, the Marine Expo will give away a free Seadoo personal watercraft. To enter, fill out a card and drop it in a hopper.
Show hours will be 10 a.m. -8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday,. and 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission will be $10 for adults, and free for children 12-under. For more information, visit online www.dgattractions.com.
Arkansas RV Show
Along the same lines as the Marine Expo, DG Attractions will hold the 47th annual Arkansas RV Show Feb. 17-19 at the Statehouse Convention Center. As with the Marine Expo, many of the state's premier dealers for recreational vehicles and RV-related services and accessories will be under one roof. Prospective buyers will be able to tour the latest models for self-propelled and tow-behind RVs.
Hot Springs Boat Show
Finally, DG Attractions will wrap up its winter show lineup with the 37th annual Hot Springs Boat, Tackle & RV Show at the Hot Springs Convention Center. This is a very popular show that gives potential buyers a last chance at wintertime pricing.
As a nod to the approaching peak fishing season, this show will feature an expanded tackle area. A duck boat will also be given away.