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A fresh start for the Lauderdale show

The scars from Hurricane Wilma are gone, and organizers are adding dock space for a bigger event

The scars from Hurricane Wilma are gone, and organizers are adding dock space for a bigger event

The Oct. 26 to 30 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show will be bigger than before but otherwise unchanged, despite the sale of the company that has managed the show for 30 years and last year’s unwelcome call from Hurricane Wilma.

“The show is sold out,” except for some space on the third floor of the convention center, said Show Management Inc. vice president Dane Graziano in July. “Everything is on track.”

That’s good news for Graziano. Last October, Hurricane Wilma leveled the show three days before it was to open, forcing a weeklong postponement and a Herculean effort to set it back up. Some vendors cancelled, and attendance was down by a quarter. Graziano says the show lost $1.5 million in tent equipment alone thanks to Wilma. “All that equipment has been replaced,” he says.

Show Management, which produces the show for the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, is adding dock space around Las Olas Boulevard, according to Graziano, and 2,000 parking spaces at War Memorial Stadium on State Route 84, where people will be able to catch a shuttle bus to the show. The event will showcase about $1.6 billion worth of boats, yachts, superyachts, electronics, engines and accessories at six locations: Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale Grand Hotel & Yacht Club, the Hyatt Pier 66 Hotel & Marina, Hall of Fame Marina and Las Olas Marina.

Preview Day, when crowds are lightest, is Thursday, Oct. 26. Tickets that day are $30. For the rest of the show, adult tickets are $16 a day, $60 for a five-day pass, and $5 for children 6 to 12 years old. Younger children get in for free. Show hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. except Monday, Oct. 30, when the show closes at 6 p.m. There is bus shuttle service (free) and water taxi service ($10 all-day pass).

Active Interest Media, an El Segundo, Calif., consumer enthusiast publishing, information and event company, bought Yachting Promotions Inc., Show Management’s parent company, from longtime Lauderdale show producer Kaye Pearson last March. AIM is owned by Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, former chairman and CEO of Times Mirror Magazines. Graziano, a 20-year veteran of Show Management, and other longtime employees and managers stayed with the company, and he says the transition under the new owners has been seamless.

He says many Europeans who usually attend couldn’t come last year after the storm-forced postponement, either because they had trouble finding hotel rooms or because they couldn’t reschedule travel post-Wilma.

“They are definitely going to come back this year,” he predicts.