Stuart Boat Show builds towards next year



STUART — As the last rolls of roadside chain link fencing are taken down along Dixie Highway north of the old Roosevelt Bridge, the lasting effects from the 42nd annual Stuart Boat Show that closed Sunday are far from over. Around the Treasure Coast, boat sellers are still hosting potential clients for sea trials arranged during the weekend, and other parts of possible boat sales are being negotiated, too.

However, organizers with AllSports Productions, the company that produces the show, are already working on ways to make the 2017 Stuart Boat Show an even better experience for exhibitors and attendees.

Michelle Allen, vice president of AllSports, said her team was happy to see the success of some of the show’s changes that were new this year.

“The food court really worked, I think,” said Allen. “What was nice about it was that it created a meeting place and gathering point — something the show really didn’t have that in the past. Plus, the bar area with the TVs kind of gave it a feel of a larger boat show.”

Allen said they may work on the types and variety of food available for next year.

“It was also good have the Geico offshore powerboat racing team here for the first time,” Allen said. “Maybe next year, we’ll be able to get them even more exposure.”

Allen said there seemed to be more participation this year from boat builders in addition to the dealers that come every year. Intrepid from Largo had its first showing this year and sold a boat, Allen said. Plus, changes made for exhibitor registration prior to the show made it more convenient for them to reserve space. The show sold out more than two months prior to its start date.

But there are things to work on.

“We need to be better prepared to handle the weather such as we had that soggy Friday,” she said. “We had the equipment and manpower, but perhaps we could have reacted faster and be ready for anything.”

Despite Friday’s washout, Allen suspects Saturday’s attendance made up for it with possible record turnout. Gate figures could not be finalized by Wednesday, Allen said, but she estimates the attendance will probably wind up being about the same as it was in 2015.

Some exhibitors were pleased with the weekend despite losing a day of traffic to inclement weather.

“Everyone had a positive attitude out on the docks, although the weather certainly wasn’t in our favor for two of the days,” said Brian Cunningham of Vero Marine Center. “As far as our participation in the Stuart show, it was probably one of the better shows as far as sales leads. We had five good leads and I’m pretty hopeful one or more of those will turn into a sale.”

Cunningham said the general feeling surrounding the show matches up with the boating lifestyle.

“This business is supposed to be fun,” he said. “This weekend, it felt like it was fun.”

Some attendees made the best of the poor weather, like John Burke of Stuart, who recently purchased a project boat.

“Friday, I wanted to talk to the guys at Caterpillar, and because of the rain I was able to get their undivided attention,” Burke said. “I was able to go back Saturday and walk the docks.”

The 43rd Stuart Boat Show will take place Jan. 13-15, 2017.


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