Festival cruises back to Lake St. Clair

Popular Boat and Outdoor Festival Sept. 19-22

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published September 11, 2013

 Avid boaters flocked to Lake St. Clair Metropark last year to enjoy the sales and specials on the many boats during the Boating and Outdoor Festival. This year’s event will again be held at the lakefront park Sept. 19-22.

Avid boaters flocked to Lake St. Clair Metropark last year to enjoy the sales and specials on the many boats during the Boating and Outdoor Festival. This year’s event will again be held at the lakefront park Sept. 19-22.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Boaters and outdoors enthusiasts will be flocking to Lake St. Clair Metropark next weekend for the Michigan Boating Industries Association’s 4th annual Boating and Outdoor Festival.

Organizers call the four-day event, going on Sept. 19-22, the place to be for both those who already love and partake in any and all outdoor- and water-related activities and those who may need a little encouragement.

“If you’re a boater and you’re looking for something to do, this is a great place to go,” said Nicki Polan, MBIA executive director. “And it’s a great place for people to get into boating, to come and learn about boating and the boating lifestyle.”

Polan said fall is the best time to attend or be involved in a boat show.

She said boat shows held in the fall are an important marketplace for boaters and boat dealers, and in-water shows like the Boating and Outdoor Festival offer a unique perspective of seeing the boats on the water; the shows are positioned at a good time to buy boats before the new model year boats are launched at winter boat shows. The festival will boast year-end sales as local boat dealers will be looking to clear out their 2013 lines to make way for 2014.

“Michigan is one of the strongest boating markets in the country,” said Polan. “Beyond the boat show aspect, our (the MBIA) goal has been to create a festival environment that would bring people to the event, even if they are not in the market for a boat. Our goal is to provide an atmosphere to help people discover boating if they are curious, buy boats if they are in the market, explore other outdoor recreational opportunities and to have fun.”

With all that will be going on at the event, the boats remain the highlight. Hundreds of boats up to 60-feet in length will fill the marina and the land space all around it. Boats from 8 to 50 feet in length of all types, including sailboats, cruisers, pontoons, personal watercraft, fishing boats, canoes and kayaks, will be featured at the festival.

Rick Velger, owner of Hideaway Yacht Sales in Harrison Township, said the festival is a kick-start to the boat show season, but none compare to the MBIA’s event.

“It’s an outside, in-water show,  whereas other boat shows this size are inside halls,” said Velger. “That’s what makes it unique.”

Hideaway will have between 20-30 boats on the water ranging in size from 10 feet to 60 feet. Their major lines, Rinker, Hurricane and Xcursion will account for a majority of their live display.

“This festival is huge for us,” said Velger. “We sold 27 boats there last year.”

But boats aren’t the only feature of the festival. Cruising Outpost Magazine creator and popular sailing personality, Bob Bitchin will host a Cruising Outpost party for the sailing community on Saturday, Sept. 21.

A new attraction will be the Learn to Scuba heated pool, where participants will be invited to suit up and scuba dive with certified trainers while learning to swim with an air tank on and to dive underwater.

Live music from local musicians will entertain the Tiki Bar crowds, and there will be fresh cuisine prepared by local restaurants.

In addition, two-person teams will fish for bass in the hotspots of Lake St. Clair, which is considered one of the best and most coveted bass fisheries in the nation. The weigh-in festivities will take place on Sept. 21,  and the grand prize is $10,000.

The festival will also be host to Michigan’s first Outdoor Nation Summit, a national initiative to get the millennial generation outdoors and onto boats. Participants ages 16-28 will come together and brainstorm ideas on how to get more people their age to recreate outdoors, Polan said.

There will also be a Kids Zone with plenty of fun attractions for children.

Polan said exhibit space is selling fast as Michigan’s rebounding economy is fueling a recovery for the boating industry. She said the boardwalk is on its way to being sold out, and bulk space is trending up, as well. For more information about exhibiting and a full list of up-to-date show promotions, go to www.BoatingandOut doorFest.com.

Hours are noon-7:30 p.m. Sept. 19-20; 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Sept. 21; and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 22. Admission is $10 for adults, and children age 12 and younger get in free with an adult.