The History and Evolution of the Baltimore Boat Show


The Baltimore Boat Show is one of the most highly anticipated winter events. Boaters, anglers, commercial and private fishermen, and people who love boating and watersports turn out for the event by the thousands. You’ll find a boat show of this type in practically every state in the union, but not all compare to Baltimore’s extravaganza. Maryland is home to water enthusiasts with a host of popular fishing, boating, sailing, and watersport destination in close proximity to the locals. The show is one of the oldest in the Progressive national events calendar of its type. Here is what we discovered about the fascinating history and evolution of the Baltimore Boat show.

Lost archives but a brilliant story

Little documentation exists for the first boat shows in Baltimore, but we dug through the archives to find out as much as possible.

The 2009 Baltimore Boat Show

We discovered a report on the Sounding website dating back to the 2009 Baltimore Boat Show. It was held in the latter part of January and billed as “Maryland’s longest-running indoor boating event. The first night of the show was an organized preview night that was dedicated to the Wish-A-Fish Foundation. The event ran for a full five days including January 21 through the 25th. The most notable features were over 500 powerboat displays along with an introduction to the latest technology in eco-friendly accessories and the “Green Boating Zone” which showcased a collection of hybrid boats. This was complemented by a Take Me Fishing Center, along with entertainment such as live music, a cash bar, and a silent auction. Proceeds of the auction and cash bar were donated to the Wish-A-Fish Foundation providing relief for families of special needs children with a day of water fun and fishing.

Special guests and attractions

Among the attractions for the 2009 show, was Jarret Johnson, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. He appeared for a meet and greet with autograph signing for an hour of the show, and promoting the Day on the Bay sweepstakes. This was a post-show event in which the winner would accompany Jarret on a fishing excursion for a day. The Ravens cheerleaders also made a 2-hour appearance to entertain attendees.

2010 Baltimore Boat Show

Ocean Shaker offered highlights from the 2010 Baltimore Boat Show. According to the report, the show featured more than 500 boats including sailboats, powerboats, and others. There were over 150 exhibitors and manufacturers showcasing their products at the 215,000 square feet of show space. Some of the latest technology featured at the show included an SJ Koch Duffy Electric Boat for those who preferred a green approach to boating. The boat was powered by green energy leaving no carbon footprint in its wake with zero emissions. The boat was promoted as requiring little maintenance with the ability to cruise for a full day on an overnight charge. This feature appealed to environmentalists. A host of antique and classic wooden boats were displayed by the Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society for another powerful attraction. Several restored classic boats were available for viewing and the owners offered a history of the traditions of boating in the area.

The 2013 Baltimore Boat Show

According to Patch, the 2014 Progressive Insurance Baltimore Boat Show was a celebration of its 60th year. From this old announcement we were able to deduce that the very first Baltimore Boat Show commenced in 1954. This was before innovations and technology in marine automotive exploded into an industry of electronic gadgets, improved engines, new materials for boat building, and the development of the latest watersports. The show was very different from today’s modern version. We searched for old advertisements and press releases before 2013, but there were none to be found. We were thankful for the organizers’ efforts to involve the press during the 2013 show and after to begin building the story of the event for future reference. Tony Fazio of the Himmelrich PR firm served as the contact for media information. A professional firm was in charge of promotion.

The Baltimore Boat Show followed suit with some of the more successful shows such as the Nashville Boat Show. The duration was longer than most other shows by a full day. The event opened for visitors Thursday and concluded Sunday towards the end of January. The Baltimore Convention Center has been the home of the Baltimore Boat Show since this time. The venue and timing were ideal. By the end of January, the locals are tired of the dreariness of winter and they’re ready to get out of the house to immerse themselves in a previous of boats and related products for summer fun and recreation. The Convention Center is located at the Inner Harbor, ideal for a boating event.

Well-organized and structured for the community

The 2013 Baltimore Boat Show was designed to appeal to a large segment of the population. There were boats for all lifestyles and budgets. Dealers set up their exhibits and made some of the best deals of the year on new boat models. The extensive lineup of boats included family runabouts, pontoons, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, and more. A wide variety of boats were advertised to draw the interest of all kinds of water enthusiasts from private and commercial fishermen to families interested in luxury cruising. The strategy was brilliant, and it appealed to thousands of boat lovers as well as locals who were looking for something different to do in the middle of winter.

Fun for the entire family

The 2013 Baltimore Boat Show included attractions for people of all ages. The latest in boating, fishing, and watersport technologies were featured by some of the vendors. Anglers and boaters were excited to learn about the latest inventions to improve recreational and commercial water activities. The venue featured a man-made pond for attendees to practice their fly-fishing skills. A Kids’ Zone was setup featuring new activities for children every day of the show. Sailing and boating-related fun kept the kids busy while their parents checked out the latest in boats and equipment from the vendors. The boating simulator gave people who were either new to boating or considering it the opportunity to find out what it was like to pilot a boat. This was a new addition to the Baltimore Boat Show that soon became a favorite. A stand-up paddleboarding station provided yet more fun.

Education from the experts

The 2013 Baltimore Boat Show gained national attention when RJ and Jay Paul Molinere of the popular History Channel show “Swamp People made an appearance. Attendees could choose from dozens of useful seminars for DIY boaters from Fred’s Shed, in conjunction with the stars of the show. This strategy brought in fans of the show in a well-organized orchestration of events for the event. Ticket sales were available at the gate or the Baltimore Boat Show official website at $12 for adults. Kids age 15 and under were allowed free admission when accompanied by an adult.

The 2014 Baltimore Boat Show as a marketing strategy

Marine Marketing Tools let us in on some of the fascinating details of the 2014 edition of the Baltimore Boat Show. The event played off the previous year and continued to evolve and grow as a better show with each passing year. Boatbuilders and dealers set up their booths to display and deal with the new model releases. They revealed innovations in technology with updated features that enticed potential buyers to come out and take advantage of the discount wars the shows became known for. Demonstrations of the boating lifestyle were as important as the new model displays. The activities and information were geared toward bringing the entire family together. Special activities for adults and kids centered around fishing, boating, and other nautical themes.

The organizers made sure to plan activities that were hands-on and interactive to make them even more attractive. Boating-related experiences implemented took the notion of boating past a novel idea and make it seem more real. An emphasis on relaying useful information to spouses about the benefits of investing in a new boat was included in the marketing strategy for the Boat Show. Ways that the entire family would benefit from the various leisure and recreational activities that a new watercraft can afford were discussed and promoted. The strategy was a part of the overarching goals of leaders in the boating and marine industry to promote boating and water activities to everyone who attended the Baltimore Boat Show. One of the sponsors’ goals was to get people hooked on boating.

The focus on the benefits of boating spread on new and experienced boaters and their whole families. The brilliance of this marketing strategy lies in the probability that boating could become a new lifestyle for adults in the family. They will raise the kids to value this type of recreation. It creates a values system passed down for generations. This philosophy is good for the boating industry because it cultivates more consumer interest in the products that add to the market value of the boating and recreation industry as a whole.

2017 Baltimore Boat Show

The Avenue News media release highlighted the forward progression of the Baltimore Boat Show that just kept getting bigger and better. A Jr. Captain’s Program became a new addition to the activities for kids age 8 through 12. It taught boating skills along with boater safety appropriate to this age group. The program was created by the Annapolis School of Seamanship expressly for the Baltimore Boat Show.

2018 Baltimore Boat Show forward

The Progressive Baltimore Boat Show continued to grow and evolve with each year that passed. Media coverage was becoming even more intensified as the organizers and exhibitors realized the value of promoting the event to the public. Prop Talk advertised the event through their official website, offering details about the time and cost. Even more about what attendees should expect were shared to draw the interest of entire families. Among the advertised benefits of the show include special one-day-only deals on boats and equipment, specials on food and drinks from vendors at the event. Promotional giveaways and discounts on parking and admission were additional incentives for attendance. The marketing theme continued to highlight that over 300 boats would be on-site for preview and purchase. Fun activities including a crab-picking contest, the paddling pool, the paddle fest pool, crafts, and more activities described to appeal to younger members of the family. The target audience seemed to be people of all ages because boating is an experience that can be enjoyed by nearly everyone.

Sponsors of the activities further enticed participants by offering prizes for winners. Backyard Boats hosted the Paddleboard sweepstakes with a Hobie Mirage Eclipse stand-up paddleboard as the prize. A shopping spree at Fred’s Shed of $500 was among the items that were up for grabs. Earning rewards was an incentive provided in addition to other rewarding activities and competitions.


The 2018 Baltimore Boat Show featured a variety of talks and interactive seminars to teach boaters some of the finer points of boat maintenance and repair. An interactive garage offered by Fred’s Shed featured experts available to consult on a variety of repair and restoration related topics. Other performance-related courses were available. These incentives made the show more interesting and helpful than ever. One-on-one consultations were also available with the professionals.

Final thoughts

Although the history of the Baltimore Boat Show has gaps from its beginnings in 1954, there is plenty of information to piece together its impressive history and evolution. The show has remained dedicated to the promotion of the boating life to enhance sales of boats and related accessories. Organizers have maintained a steady focus on promoting the event and advertising a broad array of fun and engaging events that make the entire family want to attend. It’s one of the best-structured boat shows in the United States and one of the oldest.

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