Rising water levels in Lanier bring inaugural boat show

LAKE LANIER - Tradition would make it a pretty obvious place to hold a large-scale, outdoor, on-water boat show, but just a few months back, Lake Lanier wasn't exactly a prime candidate for an event like that.

Looking more like a backyard mud puddle than the grand, county-crossing body of water it's always been, Lanier was in dire straits.

"It definitely had an effect on our business," said Johnny Crowe, owner of Watersports Central, a boat dealership off Holiday Road by the lake. "People were concerned if it was gonna fill. We knew it was gonna fill, but we just didn't know when."

But now things have changed. And Crowe wants you to know that.

"It's time to go boating," said Crowe, the de-facto director of the inaugural Georgia International Boat Show, which begins Friday in Lanier's Holiday Marina.

The event, boasting the top 25 brand names in boating, was conceived as a way to get the word out that the lake - she's back.

"It's been raining, and the lake is filling," Crowe said. "It's just a big lake that takes awhile to fill. But it's been filling, and filling pretty rapidly, so we're excited about that."

The boat show idea was dreamed up by Crowe and his cronies, a like-minded group of fellow Lanier vendors.

"We formed an organization of the dealers up and down Holiday Road to promote boating," he said.

The fruit of their labor will go down as the state's largest on-water expo of its kind.

"There are boat shows, and then there's on-the-water boat shows," Crowe said. "And to me, the on-water boat show is the most exciting. You can actually go out and test-drive the boat you're considering."

It's a grand affair. As you read this, a chorus line of beautiful boats is hitting the marina water in preparation for Friday's festivities. A slew of other vessels will line the parking lot.

"There's at least $100 million worth of boats on this road as we speak," Crowe said. "And all the major brands are there."

Everything from fishing boats to pontoon boats, sterndrives to runabouts, inboard ski boats and wakeboard boats to cruisers and houseboats. And it's a great time for bargain-hunting, Crowe said.

"We're offering great discounts," he added. "Interest rates have dropped recently ... you can finance some of these boats up to 15, 20 years if you wanted to. You can just about get any payment you want."

Some vendors are even offering preowned boats and trade-ins.

But do enough people know about the lake's triumphant, still-in-process refill to ensure a big turnout?

"Unfortunately, the press was very strong about how far down it was," Crowe said, "but you hear very little about how it's come up. So yes, we would like to get the word out that the lake is up. You can come out with your family and friends and go boating again."