Boat show return could signal improving economy

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PALMETTO - An improving economy and a renovated venue team up to bring a boat show back to the Bradenton Area Convention Center for the first time in six years. The Onshore Offshore Boat Show began Friday, and runs through Sunday.

"We were really impressed when we walked in the door how nice it was, just as they had told us it would be," says Michael Vincent of Antonietti Marine in Hudson, as he polished a boat inside a building that has a new polish itself. Improvements in the convention center account for only part of the comeback. "The economic factcor obviously hurt everybody with the boat shows," says Sean Walter, GM of the convention center.

People with less discretionary income spent less on luxuries like boats, and went less often to boat shows. But in the last year, show promoter Jim Scilligo says boat dealers called him. They wanted a show. And vendors come not only from Sarasota and Manatee Counties. "We have dealers from Pinellas and Hillsborough too," he says. "And they feel strongly about the marketplace too down here."

Show hours are 1 p.m. - 8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday. The Bradenton Area Convention Center is located just north of the Manatee River from Bradenton on US-41 in Palmetto.