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Storm Sinks Wilmington Boat Show This Year

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Sep 4, 2019
Event planners for the Wilmington Boat Show are working to pick up the pieces from this year's show, file claims and reimburse exhibitors, after having to cancel the fourth annual show ahead of Hurricane Dorian's impact on the region. 

This is the third year a hurricane has impacted plans for the annual show, which was scheduled to run Sept. 6-8. The show, which kicked off in 2016, has been held each year in early September.

Schedules and attendance for events in 2017 and 2018 were affected by previous storms. The 2019 show, however, is the first cancellation.

It along with a number of other events planned for this weekend were scrubbed once forecasts showed Dorian likely making an appearance in Southeastern North Carolina. The storm is expected to start bringing strong winds Thursday and pass by late Thursday night or early Friday morning.

The annual show was slated to draw thousands of visitors to the area for the three-day event this year. Bomar previously said she was expecting to attract 12,000-15,000 people to this year's show.

The attendance drew 11,300 to Wilmington in 2016. During the years when hurricanes affected the show, the attendance dipped. Attendance was at about 7,100 in 2017, when there was only had a two-day show. And the 2018 show, which was the weekend before Hurricane Florance arrived, attendance was about 9,000.

Based off of this year's projected attendance, the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) estimated the direct economic impact from this year’s show would have been more than $619,000. When using a 2.5 multiplier, the total economic impact was estimated at more than $1.5 million, officials said. 

The Wilmington Boat Show organizer has already filed an event insurance claim on this year's show, the first full claim ever for JBM & Associates in the 18 years it has held boat shows, said Jacqui Bomar, president of boat show management firm.

In other markets, the company puts on two boat shows in Charleston, one in Savannah and another in Jacksonville, Florida.

“We had such high hopes for this show this year, and we had everything packed up and ready to go … We’re so disappointed for the dealers and the vendors and everyone who anticipated coming," she said.

Bomar said the company is working reimbursing exhibitors and will pay for services, such as advertising, that have already taken place. In addition, talks are ongoing with event venues and facilities about costs for the canceled show, she said. 

The 2019 show was going to use Port City Marina, Pier 33, the Wilmington Convention Center and Battleship Park.

Bomar said she hasn't spoken to all of the venues yet, but of those she has, "mostly everyone is working with us." Bomar hopes venues can reimburse the show or use payments toward next year's event, she said.

In addition, Bomar has decided to pull the annual show from the month of September and is trying to find a new set of dates.

Plans should come more into focus after the storm's passing, she said.

Bomar said she is hoping to find a good time later in the fall for next year's show, among dates outside of event strongholds such as the Wilmington Riverfest and Ironman race, each held in October.

“September is just not a good pattern for us," Bomar said. "We have a lot of people disappointed all the way around."
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