Show features award-winning boats
ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa -- Though each carefully restored boat was something special to its owner, for the more than 5,000 classic boat enthusiasts in attendance, one -- a 1923 Fay & Bowen watercraft named The Rusticator -- was extra special.
The Rusticator was honored with the Antique and Classic Boat Society's international award for 2009 Antique Boat of the Year Preserved.
"They give awards for the best-restored and best-preserved boat," boat show organizer Mike Hagan said. "They're two of the best boats in the country, and we have one of them here."
Owner John Allen's "Rusticator," which still runs on its original engine, was among many boats on display Saturday at the Arnolds Park Amusement Park.
"We have over 60 classic boats: wood, fiberglass and aluminum, all makes and models," detailed Hagan.
Among the others were a 1930 Chris-Craft named Oysters and Pearls, a 1979 Glastron-Carlson with bright robin's egg blue upholstery, a 1966 Century Arabian and even a gorgeous 1918 craft that still had 80 percent of its original wood.
The 30th annual Iowa Great Lakes Boat Show also featured guest speaker Chris Smith, the 83-year-old grandson of Chris-Craft founder Christopher Columbus Smith.
The event drew watercrafts from owners in nine states, including California and Florida -- more than half of which had never been on West Lake Okoboji before.
"We had a bigger draw because we actually had a change of venue. We changed the event from being a boat show to a boat gathering," Hagan explained.
While some participants displayed one boat, others brought a collection: Okoboji resident Ron Sears displayed five of the more than 20 boats he owns, including his favorite, an old Falls Flyer from Little Falls.
"I've always been interested in water and boats all my life," he said, also noting his affection for classic '50s cars and their on-water counterparts. "Most of my boats have fins on them."
Sears was ahead of his time with the hobby, and said old boats in need of restoration were far less expensive 10 years ago.
"You used to be able to get most of them for little or nothing ... but now they've gone up in value," he said.
Since his retirement, he has had more time to restore the boats he's collected over the years, and though none of them are for sale, they are "terribly fun."
"They draw a lot of attention in the water. People stop me all the time wanting to know about the boat I'm in," he said. Though he enjoys the camaraderie with fellow enthusiasts, he also has a lot of admiration for those who take on one of the bigger challenges of watercraft restoration.
"The time that it takes to get these wooden boats into shape and keep them in shape is astronomical," he said.
Boats of other materials did not go unappreciated by attendees, either.
"I like the inclusion of fiberglass boats from the 1950s because that's when I was a kid," said Greg Lamont of Ames, Iowa, who has a cabin on the lake.
Storm Lake, Iowa resident Pat Harrington enjoyed the incorporation of a classic car show in a lot next to the docks.
"They're all so unique," she said, adding that the boat event showcased a wider variety than the one she attended two years ago.