BANGOR, Maine — When Ellsworth resident Pat Corson saw a friend from Millinocket at the 26th annual Bangor Boating and Marine Show on Saturday, he gave him a big smile, a hearty handshake and asked him if he was buying.
Marty Legassey answered in the affirmative, and then asked his buddy the same question.
“I’m stimulating the economy the best I can,” Corson responded.
Sportsmen and recreational boaters can find pretty much anything they’re looking for during the annual Bangor boat show, which kicked off early Friday afternoon and runs through 4 p.m. Sunday. The three-day show, which features the latest in fishing boats, bass boats, pontoon boats, kayaks, docks and trailers and marine accessories, typically attracts more than 3,500 attendees each year, officials have said.
Corson was at the boat show with his 4-year-old son, Isiah, and Legassey was shopping with his wife, Lu Lu.
The Millinocket couple, who have a camp about seven miles from their home on South Twin Lake, already have a boat and are in the market for a new pontoon, which can accommodate large groups and are fuel-efficient.
“We think we’ve found one over there,” Lu Lu Legassey said, pointing across the boat-filled Bangor Auditorium. “We’re comparing prices a little bit” before signing on the bottom line, she said.
Dan Higgins, owner and general manager for Hamlin’s Marine, said people are buying boats this year, which is a “big improvement” over last year when the economy wasn’t as strong and
“people were holding off.”
“We’ve sold quite a few,” he said Saturday, as customers climbed in and out of the boats on display. “I’ve sold a number of pontoon boats, sport boats and we have a whole other room of fishing boats and Eastern salt water boats” on display in the Civic Center.
This year, “there is pent-up demand,” Higgins said. “People have cabin fever.”
Boat people remember last year’s great boating season and with the quickly melting snow, they already are looking forward to hitting the water, he said.
Hamlin’s Marine was one of a half-dozen boat dealers on hand who are offering “a great variety of boats” this year, Higgins said. “It’s really good to see.”
Many of the boats on display are on sale and the dealers also are offering incentives to buyers, he said.
Hamlin was founded in Waterville 26 years ago by his wife’s parents, Dave and Chris Hamlin, and the company acquired a full-service marina on the Penobscot River in Hampden five years ago and are opening a 10,000-square-foot boat showroom on Main Road North in the next couple of weeks.
In addition to the marinas and boat sellers on hand, the Bangor boat show also features a dozen vendors, including the Penobscot River Keepers, Maine Marine Patrol and Penobscot River Restoration, and it is host to the 11th annual Paddle Smart Symposium.
Paddle Smart workshops help teach attendees everything from how to survive hypothermia to what paddlers need to know when they move from kayaking lakes and streams to paddling in the open sea.
Corson said he already has a small recreational fishing boat and an older speedboat and was at the boat show looking for an outward motor.
“I’ve been asking a lot of questions,” he said. “And we hit the trout pond.”
For younger attendees, the city created “Lake Bangor,” a large swimming pool stocked with 8-inch to 10-inch rainbow trout where children under 12 can try their hand at landing a fish using frozen corn, which they can take home or catch and release.
While watching her sons fish, Lincoln resident Sue Johnstone said that Saturday’s boat show was a first for her family.
“We’re here looking,” she said . “The men are dreaming.”
Her husband, Jason, watched as their boys, Cameron, 11, and Spencer, 8, and family friend Brandon Savage, 8, attempted to catch a trout.
Spencer said fishing — ice, stream and lake — is a something he enjoys with his family.
While youngsters were fishing downstairs by the concession stand, the Bangor Bass Club was upstairs helping youngsters learn how to cast.
“We’re teaching short-range” casting, said David Simpson, the club’s vice president. “It’s called pitching and flipping.”
The club has two targets set up on the floor that those age 7 to 14 can use to practice cast, and the best caster will take home a spinning rod and reel, he said.
Corson said in addition to looking for a new boat motor, he also attended the Bangor Boating and Marine Show to check out what’s new.
“I like to dream,” he said.