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Early reports from the 55th Annual Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show were that attendance would likely be in the 180,000 range for the event’s 10-day run that ends Sunday (March 1).
“We look like we are on track, or at least even, with last year,” said Mark Kaley, co-owner of promoter Renfro Productions Inc., Anderson, Ind., after the show’s opening weekend at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. “We had a great opening day.”
The show, with more than 500 boats, towable RVs along with outdoor and travel vendors, is unique in that the Indiana Deer, Turkey & Waterfowl Expo is part of the event on the first weekend and the Indiana Motorcycle Expo takes its place on the second weekend.
“We get good crowds because we provide a lot of variety here with the outdoor, fishing and travel vendors,” Kaley said.
Dealers at the show also were positive about prospects. “Sales have been pretty good up to this point,” said Jeff Nickell, general manager of Tom Raper RV, Richmond, Ind., who noted that two earlier Ohio shows in Dayton and Cincinnati saw attendance increases.
“People are tired of waiting around for nothing to happen,” Nickell said. “I really believe that the American public is getting tired of hearing all the bad news.”
Nathan Hart, co-owner of Walnut Ridge Family RV Sales, New Castle, Ind., said he was encouraged by the early attendance. “The interest in RVs has been high,” he said. “It’s hard to set expectations, but the pace is similar to what it was last year.”
He reported that many show-goers expressed interest in smaller, lighter weight travel trailers. “A lot of people are asking about half-ton towables,” Hart said.
Duane Parsons, a factory worker from Noblesville, Ind., said that he and his wife, Brandy, are in the market for an RV, but haven’t yet found one that fits their needs.
“We are shopping,” he said, adding that the sour national economy is of little concern with regard to a purchase. “We’ve decided that we want to buy an RV at some point, but we’re having a hard time finding one that is the right size. We either find them too big or too small.”
Indianapolis construction worker Dave Turner said he and his wife, Patricia, need a lot more convincing before they will buy an RV.
“I’m not really in the market at this time,” he said. “I could probably be persuaded, but I’m not going to let myself be.”
Turner said that before he makes a purchase the magnitude of an RV, he would need to educate himself better. “I wouldn’t buy anything right now without a lot more research,” he said.