By Samantha Joseph
STUART -- When it returns for its 39th year, the Stuart Boat Show will treat guests to new attractions, including a wealth of treasures for boaters.
For the first time it will feature a "fisherman's village" of enclosed air-conditioned tents with vendors offering "all things fishing."
"There will be something for anything you can do on the water," said Michelle Miller, director of operations at Stuart-based Marine Industries Association, the group that owns the show.
The show is set for Jan. 11-13, beginning at 10 a.m. daily. It will take place just north of the Roosevelt Bridge along Dixie Highway.
On display will be about 500 boats. About a month before the show, more than 100 exhibitors had already signed up.
Organizers expect about 10,000 to 12,000 attendees.
"The last few years, attendance has been back on the rise. We had a slight hiccup with the recession, but things seem to be rebounding nicely," Ms. Miller said.
Boaters and fishermen typically come from neighboring counties to browse booths' fishing gear and equipment, plus take advantage of free services available on site.
The upcoming boat show will feature fishing instruction from local captains.
"There will be tips on where to go, how to catch, hold and reel in fish," Ms. Miller said. "That's important because you can get them on the hook but you still have to get them on the boat."
In the fishing village will also be a kids' simulated fishing tournament with contests for children in several age categories. The program aims to help children develop a love of fishing, and awards the best 27 performers in each category with rods and reels from West Marine.
"It uses a computer program and the kids actually get to reel in their 'catch,'" Ms. Miller said. "They get to see the fish bite and to feel the pull of the rod."
The grand-prize winner will also get a half-day fishing trip for four from Capt. Chris Nelson of All Hooked Up Fishing Charter.
Attendees can also take advantage of a cruiser expo tent, offering a series of seminars on navigation, basic maintenance and other topics.
But despite the opportunities for entertainment, education and the chance to purchase items ranging from clothing to jewelry, dive gear and kayaking equipment, organizers said the boats remain the main attraction.
"The highlight of the show is the extravagant vessels the yacht brokers and dealers bring out. They usually bring in the best of the best, and it's always just a lot of fun to walk out on those big fancy boats," Ms. Miller said.
"There are a lot of boats that are reasonably priced and ready to go, and a few that are just really special. It's always a joy to be able to tour so many and see the range of it."
The show will cover more than half a mile, and will include displays at HMY's Waterway, located at 290 N. Dixie Highway and Apex Marine, located at 110 N. Dixie Highway. Shuttles will be available from the parking area at the corner of Dixie Highway and Wright Boulevard.
Admission is $10 for adults and free of charge for children younger than 10.
For more information, call (772) 692-7599.