CLEVELAND — The holidays may be over and the boating season still months away, but fans of the water have many reasons to be happy knowing the Cleveland Boat & Waterfront Lifestyle Expo is ready to open. The event takes place at the I-X Center Friday to Jan. 20.
The 51-year-old expo was revamped last year to include waterfront living features with the boat exhibits.
“We’ve traditionally been one of the largest indoor boat shows in the country thanks to the size of the I-X Center,” said show manager Ken Alvey. “The addition of the waterfront living elements has allowed us to grow even more and the changes were well received by visitors in 2007.”
A full-size chalet will be built inside the I-X Center to anchor the Waterfront Living Pavilion. It will feature nautical interior touches and the surrounding area will be landscaped to mimic a typical Ohio riverfront or lakefront. The three-bedroom, 2.5-bath chalet will be displayed by Marine City Sales and will be open for touring during all expo hours.
Two floating homes will be displayed, one by Lake Erie Floating Homes and one by Coastal Floating Homes. Both communities are located in the Port Clinton area and are marketed as vacation homes for those seeking easy access to the water.
Lake Erie Floating Homes debuted its line one year ago at the expo and now has four homes in the water as part of the development’s first phase. The company will be showing a double-loft unit this year that retails for just under $110,000, fully furnished.
The first Coastal Floating Home was constructed in June and there are now four models open for touring in the water. The company is bringing a two-bed, two-bath, two-story house with an indoor staircase to the I-X Center.
The pavilion will also feature lakefront development exhibits and a photo gallery from the Ohio Lake Erie Commission’s annual “Life on Lake Erie” photo contest.
For fishing enthusiasts, the Anglers Alley stage will feature more open-to-all demonstrations than it has in years past. FLW Tour professionals, including Vic Vatalaro, Tyrone Phillips, Dave Kolb, Julia Davis and Mark Brumbaugh, will join Lake Erie experts and charter boat captains for presentations on everything from biology to casting technique to cooking.
Nearby, visitors will be given the chance to take a virtual test drive in the Ranger Boats fishing simulator. It will be one of three hands-on simulators to make an appearance in 2008, joined by a virtual NASCAR racer from Toyota and a sailing simulator in the Sailing Center.
Across the floor in the Ski Zone, a large pool will be set up for the VenDevere Rail Jam wakeboard shows. Professional riders Brandon Thomas, Aaron Rathy, Erik Ruck, Robby Jacques and Adam Wensink will perform tricks while flying over ramps and rails thanks to the pull generated by a gas-powered winch. The Rail Jam shows will be held each weekend.
Show-goers looking to grab a bite to eat or take in some live entertainment should head to the Put-in-Bay Pavilion, where full-size replicas of the island hot spot’s Frosty Bar and Roundhouse Bar will feature guitarist Alex Bevin on the weekends.
For the young crowd, Capt’n Willie the Great Lakes Pirate will be manning his Pirate Island educational center near the main stage. Children will be encouraged to visit each of the nearby service organization booths to participate in activities and will be rewarded with a Ferris wheel ticket once all the activities are completed. Capt’n Willie’s show will feature a mix of Great Lakes trivia, nautical nonsense and music on the weekends.
“There’s entertainment options for everyone,” Alvey said. “However, the boats are the real stars of the show.”
Featured boats this year include the Marquis 40 Sport Coupe, Sea Ray 47 Sedan Bridge and Cranchi 43 Hard Top cruisers from Sima Marine, MarineMax and Yacht Works Catawba, respectively; the EdgeWater 388 Center Console fishing boat from Freeman Eckley; and the Four Winns H310 bow rider from Skipper Bud’s Marina Del Isle; all new for 2008.
Boaters looking to better the environment and save some cash at the pump should be sure to check out the new Starcraft EcoStar electric deck boat from Vic’s Sports Center. Its dual three-horsepower, 36-volt electric motors can run up to nine hours on an overnight charge.
On the other end of the spectrum, VenDevere Marine will be showing the new head-turning Malibu Corvette Limited Edition Sport-V in the Ski Zone. The 20-foot, 3,000-pound, auto-inspired boat includes bucket seats and can be equipped with an optional 505-horsepower LS7 Corvette engine.
These boats will be joined with over 1,000 others, making the Cleveland Boat & Waterfront Lifestyle Expo one of the biggest indoor boat shows in the country and the region’s yearly winter boat showcase. Presented by Toyota Trucks and sponsored by Allstate, it opens Friday and runs until Sunday, Jan. 20 at the I-X Center. Admission is $12, with children 12 and under being admitted for free. Discount tickets are available at Zeppe’s Pizzeria locations.