Show on Geneva Lake draws hundreds of classic boats
FONTANA To score big in Saturday’s antique and classic boat show at Geneva Lake, everything on Larry Lange’s 1948 Ventnor Sport Runabout had to be perfect.
All the way down to screws on the metal hinges.
Lange, a Lake Geneva resident and professional woodworker, spent the last nine months renovating the boat. He blind nailed in all new Honduran mahogany decking. He filled the boat’s upholstered seats with kapok stuffing, a cottony fiber from a tropical tree.
He used all American-made hardware on the original, 150-horsepower Gray Marine engine.
“It’s everything the manufacturer originally used,” Lange said.
Ventnor only produced six Sport Runabouts, and Lange’s is one of just three restored to original specifications—complete with its futuristic, center-mounted vent fin above the engine cabinet.
Lange hoped the judges would notice the details.
Lange is a member of the Antique and Classic Boat Society’s Blackhawk Chapter, the local group that organized the International Antique and Classic Boat show, which is in its 12th year at the marina at the Abbey Resort in Fontana.
The show had stiff competition this year. There were Chris-Crafts, Streblows and wooden Gage-Hackers—all stalwarts in the world of classic watercraft.
The show also had iceboats and oddities, as well as new “classic” boats—sleek, 30-foot luxury cruisers built with seamless Brazilian mahogany decking and plush wraparound seating.
There were manufacturers and restorers, even a cherry red Amphicar gurgling around the marina. Overall, 250 boats were at the show, some were here from as far away as Canada and California.
That’s the most boats the show has ever had, said Mark Svoboda, President of the Blackhawk Chapter. He believes the weekend event has put Geneva Lake on the map as a future venue for large, international boat shows.
“This has been a big event for our area and our chapter, and for our national organization. We’ve showed them what it is we do, and how we do it,” said Svoboda.
Organizer Larry Larkin of Lake Geneva said proceeds from the boat show go to scholarships and a program that teaches youths how to restore boats. This year, the Blackhawk Chapter helped students restore a 1950s-era mahogany Runabout.
Tony Wojnar, 86, of East Troy, sat on a bench at the marina and admired the immaculate boats even as the afternoon turned rainy. He said they reminded him of his 1953 Larson, a wooden ski boat his family has owned for 56 years.
As rain glistened on mahogany and chrome, one boat owner ran out with a tarp. Wojnar just watched from the bench.
“The boats will be fine,” he said. “They’re built to get wet.”
IF YOU GO
While not a part of the Antique and Classic Boat Society’s show this weekend, Walworth-based Mecum will auction off 75 unique boats at 10 a.m. today at the Abbey Resort, 269 Fontana Blvd., Fontana. Boats that will be part of the auction will range from wooden classics to newer models, including a Wellcraft boat that is similar to the one used on the television show “Miami Vice.”