Annual Boat Show Swells In Wilmington

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Aug 29, 2017
The Wilmington Boat Show brought more than 12,000 paying attendees to downtown Wilmington in 2016. This year, the South Carolina-based management company is growing the show. (Photo courtesy of JBM & Associates)
The second Wilmington Boat Show will kick off next week when a host of vendors from around the area and across the nation will converge on the downtown waterfront.

The show will run Sept. 8-10 at several venues downtown including Port City Marina, The Shell, Wilmington Convention Center and Battleship Park.

But the show isn’t just bringing in nationally recognized companies within the industry to Wilmington’s riverfront; boating enthusiasts from all over the country will travel to the area for the event, according to Jacqui Bomar, president of JBM & Associates, a South Carolina-based boat show management company.

In its second year, the show is gaining traction for the city, and the Wilmington Boat Show has become one of the largest boat shows managed by Bomar and her staff at JBM & Associates, she said.

“Usually when you start a show it takes years to get much of an attendance, but last year the show brought in more than 12,000 people from all over the state and country,” Bomar said.

Bomar has been producing boat shows for 17 years, including shows in Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. In one year, the Wilmington Boat Show has grown a large attendance, larger than the company's in-water boat show in Charleston and the Savannah boat show, which is in its 16th year.

"We get maybe 7,000 people in Savannah each year, and we've surpassed that already in our first year in Wilmington," Bomar said. "Wilmington ... happens to be in a location with a huge amount of boating enthusiasts coming from all over.”

This year, the show will employ about 200 people, both with the management company and locally. 

Through the estimated thousands of visitors to the Wilmington area, Bomar said, the show also draws economic impact for the city’s tourism and hospitality businesses. Both travelers and locals to the boat show will enjoy downtown Wilmington restaurants and bars and take advantage of the city’s attractions and shops. And travelers will seek hotels, she added.

This year, the show has grown slightly in the number of exhibitors and boat lines to the city. The show is expected to bring in more than 160 exhibitors, up from 124 last year. The number of boat lines has also grown from 80 to 86 this year.  

The boat management group rents out the Wilmington Convention Center, Battleship North Carolina grounds and Port City Marina for the show. So far, JMB has sold 22 more in-water slips and 43 more 10x10 booths than last year.  

“Our participation will continue to grow up until the day the show opens,” said Erica Allen, sales director for JBM & Associates, in an email. “We have the exact same number of boat dealers displaying boats, but 6 additional lines will be available to view. Both new and brokerage boats will be on sale, and the in-water boats will be available for sea trials at the dealers’ discretion. Additionally, we will have much more on display at Battleship Park than we did in 2016.”

This year, Bomar said the management company was able to secure a multi-year contract with Yamaha as the presenting sponsor of the Wilmington Boat Show.

“Yamaha has a great deal of clout in the boating industry, and they're supporting us because they have been to every boat show in the country and they really believe that Wilmington is the next huge show in the country," Bomar said.

Yamaha was a show participant in 2016.

“Yamaha Marine chose to become the presenting sponsor of the Wilmington Boat Show based on the feedback we received from our dealers and boat builders," said Austin Roebuck, spokesman for Yamaha Marine Group.

Roebuck added that the show is also an opportunity to showcase its products and let boaters test products firsthand on three demo boats Yamaha will have at the show.

“With Wilmington being situated where it is in North Carolina -- on the coast with so many boat builders and boat dealerships up and down the coast -- we knew that it would be a great show. But what we didn't realize is how quickly the show would deliver," Bomar said. "I just feel like the boat show has a great future, because [of] the way it started, and it's so rare for a boat show to be that good."
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