The Party Is Just Starting On Houseboat Row

January 2017 Feature Brady L. Kay

I have a little confession to make: the idea of letting attendees stay on rental houseboats during the weekend of our On-Water Expo was originally a last minute afterthought.  Back in 2009 we were still hosting our National Houseboat Expo inside the convention center in Louisville, Ky., so taking our show outdoors for the first time created a whole new set of challenges.

The advantages of an outside venue appeared to be endless. For starters, having the houseboats on the water where you could easily come aboard for a closer look versus waiting in long lines and climbing staircases inside the convention center was one of the biggest pushes for the change in location. Another advantage was the variety of boats. Being on-water meant houseboat brokers could also showcase used boats, which gave us a nice range from brand new showboats to starter houseboats and everything in between. Plus it just seemed to make more sense that when you’re out looking at houseboats and getting a taste of the boating lifestyle, you really should be outside doing it.

So while working with State Dock on some evening entertainment and finalizing all the details, it finally occurred to us that the attendees needed a place to stay all weekend too if we wanted to keep the party going. Louisville has plenty of hotels near our show, but State Dock is limited.

For those with their own houseboats at State Dock or surrounding marinas it’s not an issue. And even for those who live near or around Lake Cumberland in Kentucky, it’s not really a big deal either. But from day one dating back to our first Houseboat Expo in Nashville, Tenn., in 1998 it has always been the National Houseboat Expo. Translation: our Expo is not just another local boat show, but rather it draws people in from all over the U.S. and from other countries as well. You’d be surprised at the number of different states as well as the distances attendees have traveled from other countries just to attend and when they get here, they need a place to stay.  

There are some hotel options in the area, but when planning for our staff we wanted to be at the docks near the show at all times. That’s why we have always stayed on a State Dock rental houseboat during the show.

We kind of just threw out a “what if” scenario to State Dock to see if it would be possible to rent out houseboats for that weekend at a discounted rate since attendees and exhibitors wouldn’t be leaving the docks. Turns out State Dock has been doing this for years and that’s how these “Boatels” or boat hotels became part of our show.

That was back in 2009 and as we’re now approaching our eighth On-Water National Houseboat Expo, I finally feel like what we envisioned for Houseboat Row is just now coming to fruition. It seems like in the first years these rental houseboats were just a place to sleep after the show hours ended and the live music stopped. But last year the party and the fun stole some of the spotlight away from the actual show and we’re okay with that. Our magazine is about building up the fun and lifestyle of being a houseboater and never before has Houseboat Row showcased it any better. It truly is the place to be after the show, with barbeques and cornhole tournaments going on each night as friends and new friends gather together. If you’re wondering where to stay at the next Houseboat Expo, you now know the answer. 

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