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Clayton boat show brings spring optimism to a winter-weary north country

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CLAYTON — Ignoring the last vestiges of winter whipping the walls of the Cerow Park Arena, vendors, shoppers and browsers alike set their sights firmly on warmer weather at the 1000 Islands-Clayton Spring Boat Show this weekend.

“It’s certainly been a long winter and we’re ready for it,” said Dennis L. Horton, sales manager for Clayton Marina. “We’ve still got ice on the water, but people are chomping at the bit to get a new boat.”

On Saturday, Mr. Horton said the shows have changed a bit from the way they used to be, with informed costumers consulting their smartphones for good deals, but his firm has been pretty successful so far.

The show, which gives customers a chance to shop for boats, insurance, canvas and entertaining accoutrements and a chance to speak with representatives from the Coast Guard and Homeland Security, has been held since the mid-1970s and even featured a Boater Safety Course on Saturday afternoon.

Aside from the spectacle of the showroom packed with dry-docked pleasure craft, the event is a chance for businesses and customers to reunite after the winter months.

“We get to see our customers. They come up to check their cottages and they let us know when they want their boats in the water,” said Penny A. Kernehan, who works for Northern Marine Inc. “I like to meet people and it’s nice to see the other dealers too. We talk about how their year’s been and check out their new products.”

With 30 vendors spread across two buildings, the show draws an average of 1,200 visitors over the course of the weekend, according to Beth A. Rusho, who works for the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the show.

The show also featured a panel discussion hosted by the International Water Levels Coalition, which examines the effect of water levels on business and tourism associated with Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

As for a prediction on when the boating season will begin in earnest?

“We picked dates at the marina; I already lost that bet,” Mr. Horton said, ruefully. “It will be the end of April before we really start doing any boating.”



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