Nearly 60 manufacturers, distributors, and dealers from the Lake Michigan area teamed up to stage the first Michigan City In-Water Boat Show in 1980.
Norm Schultz, founder and former manager, admits when the show first opened the country and the boating industry were plunging into a recession.
“Many people were convinced the show wouldn’t survive its first year,” Schultz said, “but it not only survived, it thrived, and is recognized today as one of the most respected and well-attended boat shows in the country.”
At the time, in-water shows had become very popular with boaters in many parts of the United States.
The Chicago region, however, lacked a major boat show and in 1978 a handful of local boat dealers partnered with the Michigan City Port Authority and asked Schultz and the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association – which produced successful shows on Lake Erie – to consider Michigan City as a possible site for a new event.
Aerial view of the first Michigan City In-Water Boat Show in 1980.
The results of a LEMTA study clearly indicated Michigan City would be a good location for a show as it could serve boaters from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The area’s harbor facilities were excellent and access from all points around Lake Michigan was convenient via major highways.
The success of the show has had a large positive impact on Michigan City. The event is built by the community, supported by the region, and is estimated to have pumped more than $68 million into the local economy since its first year.
Most of the money raised during the show is directly channeled back into the community. The Port Authority has used thousands of dollars in rent it receives to maintain and improve public access facilities and dredge the harbor.