That was the overwhelming assessment of vendors who participated in the Tennessee Boating and Fishing Expo held Feb. 2-4 at the Wilson County Fairgrounds after decades at the State Fairgrounds in Nashville.
The show’s relocation proved so successful that promoters have already decided to return next year.
“We’ll definitely be back,” said spokesman Josh Lovell who helped run the annual outdoor show at its Nashville location for much of its 23-year history, and oversaw its debut at the Wilson County Expo Center.
“Everybody loved it here, vendors and visitors,” Lovell said. “It’s a good, safe site, clean and well-maintained. It’s easy to get to, traffic-wise, and has plenty of room for all our vendors.”
The only glitch was muddy parking in some unpaved lots. The Expo Center’s paved parking areas were unable to accommodate the large turnout, forcing many visitors to use unpaved lots. Those lots became churned into mud with the heavy use.
“They need to do something about the parking,” said vendor Randy Bolin of Murfreesboro Outdoors. “They could use a few loads of gravel. Other than that, it’s perfect.”
Bolin, who had a booth at the Nashville site the past two years, said: “I like this one a lot better.”
Despite the mud, an upside to the parking situation was that it was free – unlike at the State Fairgrounds.
“I like the free parking,” said Eddie Robertson of Nashville Marine. “I’m sure visitors appreciate it.”
Robertson also appreciated the Expo Center’s vast floor space and easy access.
“At the Nashville location the show was spread out into two or three buildings,” he said. “The boats were in a separate building and sometimes I think we got overlooked. Here everything is under one roof. And travel-wise, this is much more convenient.”
Jesse Redmond’s Canadian Pipestone Lodge has been a fixture at the Fairgrounds show for many years, booking trips to the famed wilderness lake. Surrounded by displays of mounted fish and photos of spectacular sunsets over pristine waters, he evaluated the move from the Nashville site:
“It can’t compare to this one,” he said. “This is really nice, with a lot more room.”
Redmond said that even if visitors didn’t book a trip at the show, many of those who dropped by and picked up the Lodge’s literature might book later.
“This has always been a good area for us,” he said.
Bo Wilkerson, who help man the Trout Magnets booth at the Fairgrounds for 15 years, said: “This is a lot nicer, roomier and with clean restrooms. It’s perfect for us.”
Billy Flatt of Nashville Fishing Charters, who guides trips for trophy striper (rockfish) on Percy Priest Lake, the Cumberland River and other area waters, said he liked the new site and was pleased by the large turnout.
“There are lots of outdoorsmen in this area,” said Flatt, whose booth displayed mounts of some of the biggest stripers ever caught in Tennessee.
“This is a good way to meet them and show them first-hand what we have to offer,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll keep us in mind when they want to go catch a big rockfish.”