The 33-foot Rinker 310 cruiser is the largest boat on display in the Orr Building. Photos by Chris Young

Boat Show in Springfield opens Friday

February 22, 2013 at 07:21 AM

It may be a sign that the economy is turning around that boat dealers are trying to shoehorn big boats into the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds this weekend.

The Boat Show in Springfield starts at 2 p.m. today, a full three hours earlier than usual.

The show continues through Sunday.

“A lot of dealers are bringing some bigger boats,” said show organizer Jeff Smith of JLS Marine in Springfield. “The cruiser market slowed down a little bit a few years back, but the market is starting to pick up for larger boats.”

Visitors also can find runabouts, pontoon and fishing boats.

And one additional dealer has been added to the show.

“This year we have 10 boat dealers,” Smith said. “Last year we had nine. We packed them in as tight as we thought we could, but we got one more in here.”

Speaking of packing them in tight, the team from Clinton Marine had less than an inch to spare when bringing in the Rinker 310 Cruiser through the big door at the Orr Building.

“If we were one inch shorter on that door we wouldn’t have made it,” Smith said.

“It actually rubbed just a little bit,” said Jeff Gibbs, owner of Clinton Marine, based at Clinton Lake.

“We’ve been doing this for 15 years, and that is the largest boat ever in the Orr Building,” he said. “And we were determined to get it in.”

Even with the tight quarters, there were still other options if the boat couldn’t fit through.

“Plan B was to let a little air out (of the trailer tires) and sneak it in,” Gibbs said. “We may have to let air out to get it out, but we’ll worry about that Monday.”

The boat is a 33-foot cruiser that is 10.5 feet wide with two engines and a generator.

Gibbs said it is a “live-aboard” boat.

“You could be self-sufficient and live on this boat,” he said.

Cruisers most likely are found on big reservoirs like Clinton or Shelbyville, he said. Boaters who navigate large rivers, such as the Illinois River, also buy them.

“On Lake Springfield you don’t see these because they won’t go under the railroad bridge.

They are too tall for that,” he said.

The Rinker 310 retails for $195,000.

“We have them always in stock, but for The Boat Show in Springfield, it is going to be a new experience.”

‘Creeping back’

The economic downturn took a bite out of the cruiser market, but Gibbs said things are rebounding slowly.

“Prior to 2008 we probably sold seven to 10 a year,” he said. “Last year we sold four of that model, so things are starting to come back and we are starting to see sales increase again.

“They were non-existent in 2009 and 2010, but started creeping back in 2011 and 2012,” Gibbs said. “Recreation probably is the last thing to come back.”

Smith said when the market for big boats slowed down, it got stronger for fishing and pontoon boats.

Springfield boat dealers are represented at the show, as are dealers from a radius of 60 to 80 miles.

Smith said the show isn’t exclusively for window shoppers.

“Believe it or not (the dealers) write a lot of deals at the show,” he said. “They are all right here where you can see all the different models.

“You can compare everything, you can talk to all the salesmen,” Smith said. “Everyone involved with the show is here to get you the best deal, and last year just about all the dealers sold boats at the show.”

Some people even bring trade-ins to the show so dealers can evaluate them.

“They are here to sell boats and they like to sell them at the show.”

Want to Go?

The Boat Show in Springfield


2-9 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday


Orr Building, Illinois State Fairgrounds


$5 adults, free for ages 12 and under

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528. Follow him at

A Starcraft pontoon boat is maneuvered into position Wednesday as boat dealers set up for The Boat Show in Springfield opening today.