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Porter County boat show offers options for all budgets

Marcel Thomas Hobart (right) talks with JasDoolittle Fay's MarinLaPorte about 614 Paddle Qwest pontoduring annual BoShow kicked off Friday Porter

Marcel Thomas of Hobart (right) talks with Jason Doolittle of Fay's Marina in LaPorte about a 614 Paddle Qwest pontoon during the annual Boat Show kicked off Friday at the Porter County Expo Center in Valparaiso, Ind. January 27, 2012. The show continues through the weekend. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 29, 2012 8:05AM



VALPARAISO — One day, Marcel Thomas will own a boat.

Not this year, the Hobart resident said Friday at the annual boat show at the Porter County Expo Center, but in the future, and he already has one picked out.

“I think that’s the ideal one for me right there,” he said, nodding toward a small, paddle-powered pontoon boat. “It looks like it’s easy to trailer. It’s just the right size. You don’t need a motor. That’s for a good, small lake.”

Noting that the boat is also affordable, Thomas said he’s looking for lake property within a five-hour drive of this area, and when he finds that property, he’s going to want a boat to go with it.

The 14th annual boat show continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Expo Center, 215 E. Division Road. Parking and admission are free.

This is a good time of year to buy a boat because many dealers are offering boat show incentives, especially on 2011 models, and buyers who want custom paint jobs or other details need to get their orders in now to get their new boats in time for the start of the season, said Bob Gross, one of the owners of Pine Crest Marine in Cedar Lake and one of the show’s organizers.

The show usually draws about 2,000 people over the course of the weekend, Gross said, though the number of dealers this year is down to five, from seven or eight, because of the economy. There is a handful of other vendors as well.

Still, each of the dealers has several boats on display, from the simple pontoon boat Thomas admired to a souped-up model with a bar and other amenities, as well as traditional motorboats.

“Pontoon boats have been a very bright spot for the marine industry during a tough economy,” Gross said, adding they are affordable and, depending on the motor, can accommodate water skiers.

Though Greg Moore checked out the pontoon boat with the bar, the Crown Point resident, who’s retired from the steel mills, said he was just killing time for the afternoon and seeing what people get for their money.

The kind of boat he wants wasn’t available at the boat show.

“It would be a kayak,” he said. “I’m all about physical fitness.”



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