The Wilmington Boat Show will cruise into downtown Friday and offer three days of information and activity at the Wilmington Convention Center. The show, which debuted in 2016, is operated by Charleston, South Carolina-based JBM & Associates.
This year's Wilmington Boat Show rides a crest of “unprecedented” boat sales in the past year, according to show founder Jacqui McGuinness, who predicts a continued high level of enthusiasm for boating. Data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association showed retail unit sales of new powerboats were up 24% on a 12-month year-over-year basis through May 2021. Pre-sales of boats in production remain strong.
In a departure from last year's show
, which took place at the Port City Marina, Pier 33 and the Battleship North Carolina in addition to the convention center, this weekend's event will be set up entirely on dry land. Boats will be on display in the convention center and along portions of Front and Nutt streets near the convention center. Parking is available in parking decks, including the convention center deck. It's also available at the Battleship North Carolina, with free water taxi service from the show to the battleship site.
"Incredible" demand for marina boat slips and construction within and around the marina meant the show had no access to that area this year, JBM & Associates' website stated.
While there will be fewer watercraft for attendees to inspect there will be plenty of opportunities to learn about trends and view new models, McGuinness said in a news release. In a telephone conversation Monday, she added that boat inventory is limited at present because of high demand and supply chain issues that have slowed production.
Nevertheless, “The show will offer boating enthusiasts the opportunity to talk to the experts and compare boat brands,” she added. “Although we won’t have the same number of boats as in years past, there will still be a solid representation and people will be able to get a head start for next year’s boating season.”
McGuinness anticipates as many as 7,500 people will attend this year's show, given the high interest in boating and sport fishing and an upbeat weather forecast. Previous Wilmington Boat Shows have drawn as many as 12,000 people and - in full pandemic mode last year - as few as about 4,000. The 2019 show had to be canceled because of Hurricane Dorian, she said.
Featured at this year’s boat show: a series of clinics, a catch-and-release activity and a casting game. The clinics cover topics such as inshore saltwater fishing, women on the water, boat maintenance and basic boat safety. There will be food trucks and blues and American roots musician Randy McQuay performs Saturday between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. and again Sunday between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The catch-and-release activities take place all three days of the show at Carolina Catch, a special fishing pond set up in the Cape Fear Community College Wilson parking lot. That’s also the site of the bass casting game that takes place Friday and Sunday. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will also be on hand there.
Wilmington Boat Show hours are noon to 6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For information and tickets, click here
JBM & Associates
also produces the Charleston Boat Show, Savannah Boat Show and the Charleston In-Water Boat Show.
NOTE: This version of the story corrects boat show-related activity at the Battleship North Carolina site and adds an attendance forecast from the show's producer.