At a time when the houseboat industry
could use some good news, the National Houseboat Expo in Louisville,
Ky., last March did just that. During the three-day event, Horizon
Yachts, Sharpe, Stardust Cruisers and Thoroughbred sold houseboats
that roughly combined for $5,465,000, giving those in this segment of
the boating industry something to cheer about.
Besides the great venue that brings all
the houseboat manufactures together in one location and the
competitive show pricing, there was another incentive for consumers
to bring their checkbook to the annual show-a $70K perk.
If you purchased a showboat during the
Expo or put down a deposit on a custom boat to be built by one of the
participating houseboat manufacturers, you were automatically entered
into a drawing for a Hurricane SunDeck 2400 deck boat from Nautical
Global Group. The $70K prize package included the SunDeck with a
wakeboard tower, Thunder & Lightning Sound System, a Yamaha
F200TXR engine, as well as a Trailmaster Trailer.
At the close of the show, the drawing
was held and John and Lynnette Lewellyn came out the winners. The
Indiana couple purchased the Thoroughbred showboat and also went home
with the ultimate kickback.
Blasting the horn during the show after
purchasing a houseboat has become a tradition and there was plenty of
noise being made. Other returning houseboat manufactures involved in
the Expo included Destination Yachts, Sailabration as well as
Sunstar. There was even a new houseboat manufacturer, Bravada Yachts,
who nationally debuted its line of houseboats at the 2011 show.
For over a dozen years, the National
Houseboat Expo has been considered a gauge for the industry in
determining and predicting the near future. Although it's still
early in the year, the success of the show points to an economy
rebound that we've all been waiting for.
Besides the houseboat manufactures, the
Kentucky Exposition Center was nicely filled in with vendors with
houseboat-specific products, services and many other booths that
catered to our audience.
After a successful All Hands On Deck
poker run last year where the winning hand walked away with a brand
new Qwest pontoon boat package valued at over $20K, we decided to do
it again! This year we gave away a Qwest LS 7518 XRE Cruise pontoon
boat from Apex Marine, complete with an Evinrude 60 DSLII engine as
well as a Yacht Club bunk trailer as our top poker run prize.
Attendees purchased a pack of five tickets from the Houseboat
magazine booth and then took each of these tickets to the five
designated booths located throughout the venue to exchange for a
playing card-all sealed in individual envelopes. These envelopes
were then returned to the booth, the cards were removed and a poker
hand was revealed. The top five hands were eligible to win the Qwest
pontoon. Needless to say, with such high stakes, people were buying
as many as 10 hands in order to improve their odds.
But for Jonathan Florence, he only
needed one poker hand to get four two's, which earned him a seat at
the final table. In the end he battled Nancy Woods and it was his
three sixes that had him leaving the show with keys to his new boat.
Jonathan came to the Expo with his wife
Kelly and their friends Frank and Carol Amos.
"When we walked up to the pontoon we
said who ever wins this, we're going to split it," said Kelly.
"We each bought one ticket each, so
we had four total and that's all we bought," added Frank. "We
were going to buy more but we took such a beating at the casino
earlier that we settled for one ticket a piece."
The two couples are from Alabama and as
they left the show they were talking about how much fun they could
have with this pontoon at the Flamingo Yacht Club at Alred Marina in
Guntersville and how their infamous E Dock friends were going to be
happy for them.
Even though the runner up didn't win
the boat, Woods didn't go home empty handed. After making it to the
final table, she took home second prize, which was a houseboat
vacation to Norris Lake. Winton "Boo Boo" Rebouche came in third,
earning him a flat screen weather-resistant TV from Mirage Vision
while Tommy Girouard and Sherri Wasserzug each went home with Cooler
Scooters from Aqua Assets for being the fourth and fifth place
finishers. Once again Middle Tennessee Brokers sponsored the
t-shirts, so even if you didn't make the final table you at least
went home with an Expo t-shirt.
Earning A Vacation
During the three-day event, houseboat
vacations were randomly drawn and awarded to those in attendance.
David Halstead won the Friday drawing and will be enjoying a
three-night rental from Anchors Away Houseboat Rentals on Lake
Ouachita in Arkansas. On Saturday, Liz Brandon was selected as the
winner of the three-night weekend or four-night mid-week vacation
from State Dock on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky.
Then on Sunday, the Grider Hill Marina
vacation went to William Haycraft. His wife Diane is especially
excited to be taking their family on a seven-night houseboat vacation
from Grider that is also located on Lake Cumberland.
Cornhole And Cash
A section of the venue was sectioned
off for the annual Boardz N Bagz Cornhole Tournament, hosted by
Bluegrass Cornhole Company, and attendees were tossing bags with
abandon as early as Friday night.
Cornhole really ramped up Saturday
morning, as serious players began warming up for the $500 cash prize.
In the end, only one team was left standing, and Derek King and Steve
Brady went home with the first place winnings. Mike Schaffer and Rick
Mayes took second and Eric Zocklein and Troy Taylor took third in the
And because the Expo was held during
the NCAA basketball tournament, Boardz N Bagz also sponsored a
contest to encourage attendees to dress up and show their team pride.
Regardless of how their brackets were doing or even if their favorite
school had already been eliminated, those dressed in college gear
were eligible to win a complete set of boards and bags to be
customized with their team of choice. Doug Curry from Carrollton,
Ky., was the big winner of the random drawing.
Once the cornhole cash prize had been
distributed, it was time for us to give out the awards for
Houseboater of the Year and the coveted Proud Crowd trophy. The 2011
Houseboater of the Year award went to Kathy Ballard from State Dock
on Lake Cumberland. Kathy and her husband Bob own an 88-foot Horizon
Yachts houseboat and her friend Jeanie Durbin presented her with the
trophy after giving a heart-felt introduction speech. Kathy was
selected for being a selfless hostess who volunteers her time to a
number of local events including the Susan G. Komen Foundation's
Cruisn' for a Cure event that is held each summer to help fund
breast cancer research. There is no telling how far her positive
influence has reached over the years because of her willingness to
help and serve others.
The Proud Crowd Trophy-that is
awarded to the marina that best demonstrates houseboating spirit and
unity-was awarded to Sulpher Creek on Dale Hollow Lake. The loud
and proud group came to the Expo in matching tan shirts, while Chain
Crawl from Fox Lake in Illinois came in matching hooded sweatshirts,
finished second in the close race. The prestigious trophy was once
again sponsored by Olympic Awards from Hudson, Ohio.
And with that, the 2011 National
Houseboat Expo was in the books. Vendors packed up their wares, ready
to go home or move on to their next event. Huge trucks came to haul
the houseboats away, and in just a few hours, you'd never have
known we were there.
Thanks to those who presented seminars
as well as to everyone who attended and supported the Expo; we hope
to see you at the On Water Expo at Lake Cumberland on August 26-28.
For more information, visit www.houseboatexpo.com.
Look For photos from the Expo in the May/June issue Houseboat