Lake levels may be low in Texas, but the crowd on opening day of the 2012 Houston Boat Show Friday was anything but.
Tens of millions of dollars worth of merchandise, from $400,000 yachts all the way down to $30,000 flat-bottom skiffs and saltwater kayaks (not to mention custom seat upholstery, water-resistant cookware, pet accessories, food, clothes and more sunglasses than you could shake a polarized lens at), filled the 650,000 square feet of exhibit space at Reliant Center.
After a one-day hiatus — the boat show closed Saturday for the first time in its 56-year history to accommodate the Texans game next door at Reliant Stadium — the show is open through Jan. 15, with extended hours until 9:30 p.m. Jan. 11-13.
Despite the overwhelming number of boat-related items condensed in one place, there were plenty of free trailer offers and deep discounts, with one 2011 Cobalt 262 we spotted discounted $25,000 with the trailer included — a sign that, although Texas' leisure economy has fared better than other states' during the recession, it hasn't gone unaffected.
Dealers in the state's interior are struggling due to the summer drought that lowered lake levels, not because of the lagging leisure economy.
A dealer's take on Texas
Dave Foulkrod of Ron Hoover RV and Marine tells CultureMap that the summer drought that lowered lake levels — not the lagging leisure economy — is the main reason many dealers in the state's interior are struggling. Dealers nearer the coast, however, have held relatively steady sales and seen gradual growth since 2010.
"2011 was considerably better than 2010, and in anticipation of a good year, we have pretty good stocking levels," Foulkrod says.
Foulkrod works out of Ron Hoover's La Marque dealership, where he benefits from coastal access. One of the company's other four Texas dealerships, however, in Boerne (near San Antonio), where the drought hit hard, saw a pull back on stocking boats.
Something for everyone
Whether you're already a boating enthusiast or not sure you're even in the market, there's plenty to do and see at the Boat Show. From the Comic Bot robots to Fish-O-Rama, where kids can fish from a pre-stocked pond, to the wide selection of RVs, there's something for nearly everyone.
One of our favorite finds was a racing boat (one of two we saw on the floor) that managed to reach more than 102 miles per hour using only a conventional outboard motor. And if you (like me) tend towards the snazzy looking sport boats, Axis has a range of wakeboard boats to make you drool over your press pass.
For more information about the Houston Boat Show, including hours and admission, click here.