In fine weather, smiling faces milled about in Ludington’s Rotary Park on Saturday during the Ludington Daily News’ annual Boat, RV & Outdoor Home Show.
The sun was shining, music was playing and spirits were high as curious shoppers and outdoor-recreation enthusiasts made their way through the selection of offerings at the show, which was held throughout the weekend.
Some visitors were boat show regulars, while others, like Brian and Tammy Page, were attending for the first time.
The Pages, who hail from Muskegon and had their black labradoodle Harbor in tow, said they were in the area camping at Ludington State Park, and the boat show caught their eye.
“It’s fun,” Brian Page said, while glancing at the RVs
He added that the couple had just purchased a camper, and wasn’t yet in the market for a new one, but they noted that the boat show offerings were $20,000 cheaper.
Tammy Page said she was already hoping for an upgrade, but she said Brian’s the one who needed convincing. Brian, on the other hand, was looking longingly at the pontoon boats on the Ludington Avenue end of the display.
“The pontoons caught my eyes, but … that’s just a dream,” he said.
Tom and Cindy Tesolin also brought their pup along. Buoy, a golden lab, was happily greeting passersby as the Tesolins made their way through the rows of boats, RVs, campers and golf carts.
“We’re staying at our son’s trailer on the lake, and we drove by and saw this. We were interested in a new camper, then we saw the golf carts over here and we’ve always been interested in having a golf cart,” Tom Tesolin said. “It’s one of the last weekends of the summer, so we’re just trying to get away while we can.”
Cindy said the selection was “great,” and Tom agreed.
“I think you’ve got a little bit of everything,” he said.
Stu and Andrea Steven were luxurious in a boat model offered by Lynden Sports Center. The couple has a boat in a slip in the area, and was looking to make a change.
Andrew Steven said the couple attended the boat show in past years, and would likely do so again in the future.
Kevin and Heather Shannon, of Lawton, had also recently made a big outdoor vehicle purchase, but they were in the area celebrating their 33rd anniversary and figured they’d take a look at what the show was offering.
It was their first time attending, and they said it was a nice event.
“We’ve been up in the area before, but this was our first time coming,” Kevin Shannon said. “We just started walking around and decided to check out the boats and the campers.
“They’ve got a pretty nice selection of different price ranges and styles and that sort of thing. This is a good event for such a small community.”
For Jim and Carla Bowman, the live entertainment was the standout element of the event.
The Bowmans were in the area from Green Valley, Arizona. They spend their summers in Ludington because it’s Carla’s hometown, and she still has friends and family nearby.
They said they enjoyed the music, especially from Third Coast Swing, who performed in the Rotary Park band shell during the Bowmans’ stop at the show.
Things were looking sunny for vendors as well.
Michelle Winters of Bish’s RV said the industry has been booming since the pandemic, as more and more people seek out vacations that offer privacy.
“We’re still up in sales from where we’ve been in past years, the industry is still strong, we still see people wanting to vacation and find their own controlled vacation,” Winters said. “That’s a big deal. After COVID, I think everybody really likes the idea of having their own freedom that they can control in their own space.
“I think, due to the pandemic, the family dynamic of people getting back to their roots and spending time with their families has really brought people into the camping world again.”
Winters said Bish’s is seeing “more first-time buyers than ever before,” and that some are already returning to upgrade their RVs after a 2020 or 2021 purchase.
Supply-chain issues that plagued the recreation industry haven’t affected Bish’s, which acquired Fun ‘N’ Sun RV a while back, and Winters said Bish’s is “back on top of the supply game.”
“We have everything from personal campers … all the way up to our great big toy-haulers.”
Bish’s had a lot of 2022 “close-outs” on display at the boat show, and Winters was excited about the response from customers.
Winters said Fun ‘N’ Sun was involved with the boat show since its inception six years ago, and Bish’s, which is based out of Idaho, plans to keep that tradition going.