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Boat show gets raves at convention center

All buffed up with everywhere to go, the slick, shiny boats begged "come hither." Thousands of people gave in to the temptation Sunday and roamed among the sailboats, ski-boats and yachts that filled the exhibition hall at the new Tampa Convention Center. Some climbed aboard and played navigator; others just stood back and admired the scenery.

"These boats are too pretty," said John Danzilo of Honduras, who was visiting the center with his son-in-law from Tampa. "Each boat is more gorgeous than the (one before)."

The exhibit, part of the festivities for the final day of the grand opening of the convention center, gave visitors an early peek at boats that will appear in the Tampa International Boat Show in January.

That 25th-anniversary show, scheduled from Jan. 17 to 20, will include more exhibits and activities, and more than 500 boats, organizers said.

Up close and mounted high, the sleek boats in the center looked even more regal and impressive than on water. The larger race boats and pontoon craft dwarfed exhibitors, while the smaller rubber rowboats revealed new advances in technical expertise.

In addition to providing the stuff of daydreams, Robbins said the boat show gives boat makers and sales people a chance to reach a new market. About 21 manufacturers' representatives and 14 dealers participated in the show.

"This allows us to talk to more people who might want to buy a boat," said Dale Robbins, manager of the show since 1981."We're here to bring our potential boat customer to our potential boat seller."

The selection of boats ranged from inflatable rowboats for $1,500 and runabouts for $13,000 to yachts and offshore performance boats for $100,000 and up.

Although many at Sunday's show had come to see the new convention center rather than the boats, Robbins said it was not hard to find fans.

Said Robbins: "There's just a natural attraction between people and water."

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