Marine News from the Great Lakes

Detroit Boat Show Celebrates 60th Anniversary February 17-25

Published: Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Detroit Boat Show will cruise into Cobo Center February 17-25, celebrating the 60th “Diamond” anniversary of the event. The show, like the boating industry, is growing again this year, covering 420,000 square feet with everything boating. After another successful boating season in Michigan, exhibitors vie for the few remaining spaces available.

“As we celebrate our 60th year of the Detroit Boat Show, it’s great to see a thriving boating industry in Michigan,” said Show Manager Nicki Polan. “We have more exhibitors, taking more space and bringing in more product, which makes for a bigger and better show that is sure to impress our attendees.”

More than 60,000 consumers are expected to attend to see and buy hundreds of new 2018, 2016, and 2015 model boats for fishing, skiing, wakeboarding, and cruising – also paddle boats, kayaks, paddleboards, and inflatables. It is the best place to shop for a boat as it would take weeks to visit as many dealers around the state. Show prices are also extremely competitive and buying a boat in February assures boats will be ready for an early spring launch.

Many dealers say they can attribute up to 50-percent of their annual sales to sales and leads generated at this show. Past surveys have shown more than 1,500 boats, worth an estimated $50 million, traditionally sell during the Boat Show’s nine-day run, and shortly after to leads generated at the show.

The Detroit Boat Show also offers exhibits selling boating accessories and services including motors, dockage, water toys, skiing and wakeboarding gear, boating and fishing accessories, electronics, boat gear, nautical gifts, artwork, and much more.

More special promotions will be featured this year in celebration of the show’s Diamond Anniversary. These make this event fun for those just looking to get a taste of summer in the middle of Michigan’s winter, including: A special 60th anniversary historical display, Enter-to-win a grand Diamond prize and a Yeti-A-Day Giveaway, Rail Jam Wakeboarding Shows, Twiggy the Waterskiing Squirrel, waterwalkerz & rollerz, kid’s craft area, meet a live mermaid, promotions, Broadcast Center, free boater safety course, and MORE!

Admission to the boat show is $13 for adults; children 12 and under are free with an adult.

Special admission days include:

  1. Mon., Feb. 19: Senior Day – seniors 65 and older receive free admission during show hours (11 a.m. – 6 p.m.)
  2. Tues., Feb. 20: Ladies Day – Ladies get in free.
  3. Wed., Feb. 21: A Boat Load of Food – Donate 5 cans of food to Gleaners Food Bank between 3 & 6 p.m. to get in free
  4. Thurs., Feb. 22: Millennials’ Night Out, Career Day, AND Boat Show Gives Back
    1. Millennials 30 and under receive free admission show hours (3 – 9 p.m.)
    2. The show is also hosting a Career Day for High School and College Students interested in finding out more about careers in the industry, including marine technology!
    3. Boat Show Gives Back – learn more about the Recreational Boating Industries Educational Foundation, scholarships available, careers in the industry and the thousands of dollars the Foundation gives to Students and Marine Professionals to invest in education.


Saturdays: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sundays & Monday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday: 3 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Tickets and hotel accommodations at the Courtyard by Marriott are available at Parking is available at Cobo Center and surrounding lots.

The Detroit Boat Show is owned and produced by the Michigan Boating Industries Association (MBIA), the voice of boating in Michigan. Revenue generated from this event is returned to fund boater’s interests via MBIA’s programs and services. For more information, visit, or call 1.800.932.2628.

The Detroit Boat Show is sponsored by Great Lakes Scuttlebutt, Official Magazine of the Detroit Boat Show and the Courtyard by Marriott.

The year 2018 marks the 60 year anniversary of the Detroit Boat Show which is held annually at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan. The Detroit Boat Show has a dynamic 60-year history as an event that has grown to serve the changing needs of the boating industry in the state of Michigan.

Owned and sponsored by the Michigan Boating Industries Association (MBIA) since 1958, the Detroit Boat Show continues to showcase the best the boating industry has to offer. For the 2018 show, approximately 1,000 boats will be on display from 10 – 50 feet in length.  

The MBIA is a non-profit trade association representing the recreational boating industry in Michigan. In 1958, the MBIA's primary focus was to promote the annual Greater Michigan Boat Show, as it was named at the time, at the Detroit Artillery Armory on Eight Mile Road. Since then, the MBIA has continued to promote boating through boat shows, governmental relations in Lansing and Washington, and services to its members.

Over the years, the boat show grew in popularity and was moved to Cobo Hall and Exhibition Center in downtown Detroit in 1972 to accommodate more exhibitors and the crowds of consumers who were drawn to the show.

Through 1983 to 1990, the boat show was re-named the Detroit Boat and Fishing Show to encompass recreational fishing and various aspects of the sport of boating. This reflected the MBIA's interest to expand its promotional efforts which included sponsoring The Blue Water Spring Salmon Classic, a major fishing tournament, for three years.

The early 1990’s represented a stall in growth of the boat show due to an overall consumer lag in boat sales which caused the show to shrink. The Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, also brought the show down to 200,000 square feet of exhibit space as dealers took less space due to slow boat sales. The Show has experienced 8 consecutive years of growth since 2010 and has now grown to nearly 425,000 square feet of all things boating for 2018.

The year 1998 marked the 40th Annual Detroit Boat Show. This year also saw the start of the "Friends of Distinction" luncheon held at Cobo Hall during the show where all Michigan legislators are invited to learn about the boating industry and its impact on the state.

The Detroit Boat Show has fluctuated between 200,000 and 600,000 square feet depending on market and social conditions in Michigan and in the U.S. However, the focus of the 2018 boat show is the same as that of the initial event in 1958: To act as the point of introduction of new model boats and boating products; to provide consumers with a one-stop shopping boating extravaganza; and to provide a service to MBIA members by creating a first-class show that would draw a consumer base ready to buy boats.

While over the past 60 years, the focus of the boat show has remained the same, but the products have changed dramatically to meet new customer demands, especially pontoon boats, personal watercraft, and now the very popular tow boat segment. Center Console fishing boats are also a very popular boat type not typically sold in this market 20 years ago. Boats, in general, continue to offer more room, better performance and added amenities, and crossover features allowing you to fish, cruise and tow all from one boat.

Driven by the consumer's challenge to find time for recreation, industry representatives speculate that the sail boat market has not grown equally with the powerboat market because it is more time-consuming to sail. Additionally, “Day-Boating” has surpassed cruising which has led to larger boats with open bow designs allowing for more people onboard to join the fun.

The Detroit Boat Show and its exhibitors continues to keep pace with boating trends and provides an exhibition of boats and boating products to suit the needs of all who want to shop or learn about the boating lifestyle.

tags: Boat Show, Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair

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