In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Mid-Atlantic Sports and Boat Show was one of the biggest events of the winter. Over eight days and nights, it drew tens of thousands to the then Virginia Beach Pavilion. Friday and Saturday nights were a pre-bar party scene with boat lovers and those who just enjoyed the scene. If you were anybody, or wanted to be, you went to the boat show. 

But alas, the economy, dying advertising dollars to spread around, and several other factors gradually diminished the enormity of the event. Enter COVID and there was even a chance of the door shutting down for a year or two…

Well, hats off to organizers and show owners from the Izaak Walton League for not throwing in the bilge pump. They realized what an intricate part of the community this show had become. Evidence lies in plans for the 69th edition of the boat show at the end of the month.

“Bigger and better,” said Russ Kostinas of Top Notch Events, LLC – who has been in charge of the complicated world of putting the show together for 17 years. “We’re promoting it as ‘back to the regular size.’ It’s going to be a lot better than recently.”

Last year, because of pandemic issues, show-goers had to register for sessions of 250 people because of city and state occupancy regulations. Not any more.

“No masks will be required and it’s going to be business as usual,” Kostinas said.

The show will feature its usual array of boats, along with vendors hawking all of the trickle-down aspects of the boating community. Local fishing clubs will be there in force. There’s a chance this show could be packed since one silver lining found its way from underneath the dark, COVID cloud.

Last summer, as more and more families tried to find avenues to get out of the house and do things, the boating industry saw an insane boom in sales – to the point where products to build them have put many manufacturers behind in filling orders to dealerships. That’s a reason why the show will feature some used boats to purchase if a customer simply can’t take the chance of not having a vessel for the upcoming summer.

This year’s Mid-Atlantic Sports and Boat Show runs from January 28-30. Hours are from noon to 8 PM on Friday, 10 AM to 7 PM on Saturday, and 10 AM to 5 PM on Sunday. Admission is $10, but kids younger than 12 get in FREE.

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