Hundreds of shiny new boats take over downtown Fort Myers, just feet away from those damaged by Hurricane Ian.
The storm didn’t stop the 50th annual boat show from kicking off on Thursday. It just looks a little different.
For starters, the boats are on wheels instead of in the water. Vendors say keeping up with demand is a challenge, but none of that’s enough to phase people. They’re happy to see events like this returning to downtown.
“I always like to see what’s new and thinking about getting a second boat too,” said Tom Gunkel.
Instead of November, the 50th annual boat show is taking place in January.
“It’s sad. Of course, you know, to see if you love boats and sad to see boats piled up like that. Not being used and probably discarded or salvage. So it’s pretty, pretty sad,” said Scott Gingel.
Despite the boats being out of the water, the smiles and conversations that come with the boat show each year remain.
“There’s always temptation at a boat show,” said Gunkel.
“It’s nice to see people smiling like yourself, and it’s, it’s good to be out in beautiful weather here. You know, it’s just nice to be able to do something again,” Gingel said.
While there are reminders of Ian, the boat show is a sign of progress.
“It’s good to see people out and getting back to some sort of normal situation,” said Gingel.
“It’s nice to see everyone come back together. And although we had to delay it from November to January, it’s been great that everyone’s here with bright spirits,” said Rachel Wells, with ProgGlider Boats.
“I’m glad I’m here and seeing what’s around, and you know, I think I think I might talk him into buying a pontoon boat. So we’ll see. So I’m gonna go work on that now,” said Nancy Furnback.
Organizers say there are more than 500 boats on display, so even if you aren’t in the market for one, there will still be plenty to look at.
The Fort Myers Boat Show runs from Thursday through Sunday.