Thursday, September 06, 2001

Voila! A boat-RV show

Buyers like one-stop showcase

By Anya Rao
Enquirer contributor

        Many people dream of owning an expensive yacht or traversing the country in an RV, but it might take a little magic to find that perfect vessel or vehicle. At least, that's what Hague Atkinson is counting on.

        Mr. Atkinson is the president of Real Magic Media Inc., a West Chester-based advertising agency specializing in recreation vehicles, boat and sport trade shows. Mr. Atkinson, who started Real Magic six years ago, is a large producer of regional boat and sport shows in the Midwest. The company's next show, the Great Midwest Fall Boat & RV SuperShow, will dock at the Cincinnati Convention Center this weekend.

[photo] Boats are a specialty for Hague and Melanie Atkinson, owners of Real Magic Media Inc.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        In addition to selling booth space to vendors, Real Magic coordinates and manages the show and develops advertising and marketing, Mr. Atkinson said.

        “It's a fun business to be in,” he said. “We are selling recreation, selling enjoyment and selling the ability to spend time with family.”

        The company drifted into boat and RV shows based on requests from dealers for more than one show a year, which had been the standard. As a boat owner himself, Mr. Atkinson pursued the idea. The result is a company that produces six to 10 shows a year.

        Real Magic Media has roots in Mr. Atkinson's previous career. He spent 15 years during and after college performing as a professional magician. He was the resident magician for Kings Island, Cedar Point and The Precinct restaurant.

        As a child he won local and national magic competitions. His father operated an ad agency in town and often took his son to trade shows. When operators discovered his skills as a magician, they asked him to travel with the shows to perform.

        Years as a trade show magician helped Mr. Atkinson make the contacts that led him into the business of organizing the events. Ten years later, he started Real Magic Media.

   More than 24 regional boat, RV and motorcycle dealers are expected at the Great Midwest Fall Boat & RV Supershow at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center downtown this weekend. Hours:
   • Friday: 12-9 p.m.
   • Saturday: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
   • Sunday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
   • Tickets: In advance, available at Bigg's — $5 adult, $2.50 child. At the door — $7 adult, $3 child (ages 7-14). $1 off adult admission coupons available at BP stations and at some participating boat show dealers.
        Mr. Atkinson, a Cincinnati native, even met his wife, Melanie, who was a client, while working as a trade show manager. Mrs. Atkinson, who acted as her husband's magician's assistant while they were dating, now works at Real Magic as a project manager and coordinator of advertising and logistics.

        Each trade show takes six to eight months to plan, allowing for a lot of change in the day-to-day job duties.

        “The job is always fresh and new,” Mrs. Atkinson said. “We work on it for six to eight months, deal with the good and the bad and then we get to put it to bed and start with something new.”

        The small company usually employs five people to help with show logistics. Mr. Atkinson's three teen-age stepsons also help out as interns during the summer.

        Trade shows are a convenient way for customers to check out many products at competitive rates. Manufacturers often give incentives such as a rebate on products at trade shows, Mr. Atkinson said.

        “It becomes a neutral selling ground for dealers,” he said. “It's a chance for potential buyers to see 15 to 20 regional dealers at one stop.”

        Rick Rosenberger, co-owner of Captain's Cove Marine on Kellogg Avenue in Columbia Tusculum, said 60% of all boat buyers visit a boat show before they make a purchase.

        “In joining efforts with the show promoters and other dealers, it's more (exposure) than you can do on your own individual advertising budget,” Mr. Rosenberger said.

        To remain knowledgeable about what his clients are dealing with, Mr. Atkinson follows news about the recreation products industry. He said he is probably in contact with every boat, RV and associated products dealer between Cleveland and Charleston, S.C.

        Though Mr. Atkinson no longer owns a boat — he's too busy with his business — he remains involved with the boating and recreation world through Real Magic Media.

        Next year, Mr. Atkinson and company will be even busier. Plans are in the works for a new show June 6-9 on Kentucky Speedway's infield. If all goes well, the company might take the show to tracks in other cities.

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