Boat enthusiasts looking for a new ride will flock to the Atlantic City Convention Center this weekend.

Edward Lea

Temperatures have hovered at or below the freezing mark for the past few weeks, but organizers at the upcoming Progressive Insurance Atlantic City Boat Show are hoping that 2014 attendees will at least be thinking — and hoping for — spring.

“The nice thing is when you come inside, (the show) has the spring and summer feel to it,” says Jon Pritko, who manages the show for the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “With all the boats and the activities we have, it kind of gets you in the spirit. It’s a nice break. It’s like going down to Florida in the middle of the winter.”

The boat show, which kicked off Wednesday, Feb. 5, at the Atlantic City Convention Center, will run through Sunday, Feb. 9, and features a full schedule of family friendly activities.

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The boat show, which continues to grow in size each year, features hundreds of boats for attendees to walk through and thousands of boating accessories, as well as games, seminars, children’s events and more than $55,000 in available prizes. Well over 300 exhibitors will fill the convention center for the five-day show, with every style of boat and marine accessory imaginable, Pritko says.

In Atlantic City, though, the focus tends to be on fishing boats.

“We have everything from 7-foot kayaks all the way up to luxury yachts for $1.23 million,” Pritko says. “What we kind of see more of in Atlantic City is there are a lot of pontoon and fishing boats here, and the shows are tailored to whatever market they’re in.”

This year’s boat show includes popular attractions from years past and some new additions, including an all-new Miss Geico race boat, a catamaran that reaches speeds of up to 170 mph. Indoor fly fishing and paddle sports return this year with the American Fly Fishing School’s 50-foot “simul-cast” pond, hosted by national fly-fishing personality Mike Corblies.

Boaters can also participate in free workshops at the Boater’s Education Sessions, presented by the Annapolis School of Seamanship, or learn about engine maintenance and repair with sessions at Fred’s Shed.

“We’re really big on education,” Pritko says. “We have a lot of great fishing things. We brought special speakers in and we have the American fly fishing school, with a casting pond, and we have boating education — all hands-on things as well.”

Captain Dave Carraro, star of the National Geographic hit series “Wicked Tuna,” will be appearing in the special events area Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

For children, there will be a toy boat-building tent where kids can build their very own boats, as well as a kids’ fly-casting competition, face painting and a “big catch” photo display.

“We pride ourselves on being a family-friendly environment,” Pritko says.

There will also be plenty of prizes at this year’s show, including a $500 shopping spree, an Atlantic City getaway with a two-night stay at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, an original watercolor painting by nautical artist Willard Bond, and a 2014 SeaHunt 210 Triton boat and trailer, valued at more than $55,000.

But for those who are serious about purchasing a boat, Pritko says, the time to make a move is now — while the weather is still cold. Boat manufacturers, he says, need some lead time in order to have a boat order ready by spring.

“This is where you’re going to get your best deal,” Pritko says.


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