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The History and Evolution of the Denver Boat Show

Denver Boat Show

The Denver Boat Show is coming up soon. The annual event is held every year in January. Outdoor enthusiasts of all types look forward to attending. It's a nationally organized gathering of vendors from across the country. The sponsors have put this show together to provide Colorado residents with something to look forward to after months of winter weather. Those who prefer to fish, boat, or engage in other types of water sports are ready to start looking towards the future. The show has been an annual tradition since the mid-1980s. Here is everything that we know about its history and evolution.

When was the first Denver Boat Show held?

We learned on Patch the first Denver Boat show made its debut nearly 35 years ago. The first event took place in Denver, Colorado in 1986. Denver's show began the same year it launched in major cities throughout the nation as well as in the United Kingdom. There is little that we know about shows in the 1980s and 1990s eras. What we do know is that the show has gone on for every year without interruption since it first began. We were able to find a few advertisements for the 2010 and 2012 shows, but no other archived information was available to detail the contents or statistics for the first few decades of its existence. The first tangible historical information we found about the Denver Boat Show was from the 2015 event.

2015 Denver Boat Show

We found a forum that gave us a bit of insight into the 2015 show. Wake World members shared multiple photos of the show with shots of the boats that were on display along with invoices breaking down the itemized cost of customized boats. There were several brands represented at the show that included Tige, Rocky Mountain Boat Co., Nautique, and dozens of others. Rows of merchandise were displayed and from the photos, we can see that the 29th show was packed to the rafters with a variety of boating and water sports products. We saw that the show was receiving more notoriety after the fact than previous shows. More people were talking publicly and the conversations became a matter of public record that gives us a little more information about how the show evolved through the years.

The 2016 Denver Boat Show

The 2016 show was held at the Colorado Convention Center. Unlike some of the other shows, this venue was only held for three days from January 8, through the 10th. It was shorter in duration, according to Colorado Country Life. The event was simply listed as an all-day event without specific times listed on the site. We did see that the show was set to feature a variety of 2016 new boat models a well as boating accessories. Little was said about water sports items as the boats were the prime focus of advertisements along with the special prices that were made by dealers attending the event.

2017 Denver Boat Show

The 2017 Denver Boat Show was held from January 15th through the 17th. Like the year prior, the show lasted for just three days. We learned from the Denver Boat Show that the show was sponsored by the Colorado Marine Dealers Association. It's the largest boat show in the state of Colorado. The venue is even larger than the Nashville Boat Show's 180,000 square feet, topping it with a massive 250,000 square feet of space.

2018 through the 2020 Denver Boat Shows

There wasn't a lot of press about the 2018 Denver boat show in the archives, but we did find a significant amount of press about the 2019 event. The 35th annual show featured a variety of 2020 boat models along with cruisers, pontoon boats, surf boats, pontoons, cruisers, fishing boats, and the most recent technology and gadgets in the boating accessories arena. The emphasis for the press remained focused upon the sale of boats and getting a good deal on a late model year. Wakesurfing and wakeboarding wither two watersports that the advertisers highlighted at this event. Professional riders and wakeboarders were available at Tommy's booth at the 2020 Denver Boat Show to sign autographs and take pictures with their fans. This show was a huge success. The admission prices for the show cost $10 per adult on Friday and $14 on Saturday and Sunday. Children under 17 were allowed free admission to the event.

The Colorado Marine Dealers Association is the organizing entity in charge of the event. The event organizers have not fully utilized the press to reveal all of the family events and activities that have taken place at the venue if any were. There is little information available for 2020, but from all appearances, the show will go on at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado. The dates for the event are January 15- 17 of 2021. There are no posted changes in the price of admission. Kids under the age of 17 get in for free. We saw no provisions for the recent Covid-19 Pandemic, therefore, we're assuming that the show will go on as planned unless there is another surge in the rates of infection within the state.

Exhibitors at the 2020 Denver Boat Show

Our research turned up a list of the exhibitors that were present at the Denver Boat Show for 2020. This gave us a little more insight into the activities that were available for families. Although the event was mainly focused on boat exhibitions and sales, there were a few other vendors available. There were other products offered at the massive show including accessories for lounging on the water with inflatables, a company selling hair care accessories, insurance agencies, home remodeling and repair companies, wake foil equipment and supply vendors, mattress vendors, and more. Although these non-member exhibitors were set up at the venue, we were surprised to find that there were no advertisements for boater education or family fun attractions.

Other exhibitors at the 2020 Denver Boat Show include the Colorado State Parks & Wildlife teams. Education about the threat of invasive species was available in spaces 902 and 904. Representatives from the Colorado State Parks & Wildlife Department's boating safety program were also present. Also, The Community Sailing Organization was present to discuss their sailing camps and the classes that they offer for kids, adults, and families. The Wyoming Game Department was also present, but there was no information posted about the activities or educational opportunities offered by these groups.

Attendee reviews of the Denver Boat Show

We looked for more information about the Denver Boat Show to discover more about the history. At Groupon, we found three attendee reviews of the event. The three respondents gave it a score of 5 out of 5 for the good deals that they found on the boats that were offered for sale at the 2016 show.

A review left at Pontoon helped to further reinforce our opinion that the show wasn't as inclusive of fun events as many of the others that are held around the country. The critic shared that the Denver Boat Show is not considered to be one of the top 10 boat shows, again citing that the 2018 show featured a lot of good deals on boats and there was an excellent selection of different types of boats. Available information about the success of the Denver Boat Show leads us to believe that the public opinion is that there could be some improvements made to make the event a bit more diverse in its offering of water sports-related equipment and education.

Our assessment of the history and evolution of the Denver Boat Show

This event is glorious in terms of its focus on the boating industry and the broad display of boats available in the state of Colorado. This show seems to be extremely focused on boating, with plenty of displays that feature the latest models of a wide variety of boat brands available. Some boat repair specialists, along with accessories for wakeboarding promoted this activity. It's a haven for boating enthusiasts. We also saw that there were other vendors present from other companies representing insurance coverage, which is a necessity for boaters, along with a few others. The Denver Boat Show gets a top-notch rating for its delivery of boat displays. It has received high marks in reviews left by previous attendees impressed with the ample selection of boats.

What we didn't see was the advertisement of family and kid-focused events that could make the Denver Boat Show even more successful. The show could draw in more people if it advertised hands-on activities and attractions. We looked for evidence of a kids' fishing pond, a course on casting techniques, educational classes about boating safety, a few seminars on boating, boat repair, sports fishing, or other related topics.

When we compare the archives of the Denver Boat Show's history to a few of the other shows held around the nation, there was a lack of attention paid to the educational opportunities for boater certification and other boating-related information. It's unclear if these opportunities were even offered at the show. It's only held for three days while some of the other shows run for a full four days. For example, the Nashville Boat Show brought in a water skiing squirrel. There was also an opportunity to take boating certification courses at the event and numerous educational seminars. There were also consultants available to give one-on-one discussions with boaters who had questions. These are the types of activities that help to stimulate greater interest in attending such an event. People who have families are looking for events that are more inclusive and fun for everyone. We're not saying the Denver Boat Show doesn't offer these activities, but if they do, they certainly made no mention of it in the press releases.


A few suggestions would be for the addition of activities for the entire family. If these activities were present at the show, they should have been included in the pre-show advertisements to let the public know about them. There has not been anything spectacular done to increase interest for family members who are not interested in strictly boating, such as anglers, water skiers, and others. The Denver Boat Show, from a historical perspective, has not shown much evolution except for offering a walkthrough to see the latest new boat models with dealers available to close the sale. It's nonetheless a grand event for members of the boating community. It draws thousands out to see what kind of deal they can score on a new late model boat, and that's the focus of the show. Perhaps a bit more innovation and creative advertising would turn a show that has a so-so rating into one of the most spectacular events in the state?

Final thoughts

The Denver Boat Show has been held for nearly three and a half decades consecutively. The Colorado Marine Dealers Association is in charge of sponsoring and organizing the event. While the advertising has not been as strong or inclusive as those we've seen from some other cities, Colorado remains focused on encouraging boating and water sports. It's a massive gathering of boat enthusiasts with vendors and dealers available to help attendees learn more about the later model boats and the show specials offered. The contents of the Denver Boat Show and attractions are likely similar to the other shows taking place around the nation. It's too bad that there have not been more details about it through the press. This omission is a missed opportunity to bring more visitors to the event. Although the event follows along the same lines as the other shows held, there are some differences. The Denver Boat Show is shorter in duration and the management of the advertisements shows glaring differences.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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