Show-goers turn out despite postponment - Soundings Online

Show-goers turn out despite postponment

Author:
Publish date:

To the casual observer, everything seemed to be in place at the 46th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, held a week later than planned, Nov. 3-6. People, most of them from South Florida, were taking advantage of the light crowds to get their questions answered — or simply to escape the cleanup that awaited them at home and fantasize about new boats.

To the casual observer, everything seemed to be in place at the 46th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, held a week later than planned, Nov. 3-6. People, most of them from South Florida, were taking advantage of the light crowds to get their questions answered — or simply to escape the cleanup that awaited them at home and fantasize about new boats.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” said show-goer Norman Beumel, who in the days leading up to the show had been using a pair of generators to run electricity to his Boca Raton, Fla., home. “It looks like they have pretty much everything they had in previous years.”

Beumel, who works as an engineer building the beaches of South Florida,said he felt the show was important to keeping the local economy going. “If you’re going to sit around and complain, you might as well come here and have fun [instead],” said Beumel, 50.

“That’s why I’m here,” he added. “I’ve had enough chainsaws. I’ve got plenty to do tomorrow, but I decided to take a break.”

While many visitors like Beumel looked for a diversion, others found the show an opportunity to get maximum attention from exhibitors.

Mark and Eileen Duffy suffered extensive damage to their home and boat from Hurricane Wilma. “But we’re back out here anyway, figuring no one else would be, so why not?” said Mark Duffy, 50, who is in the car rental business.

Even though they lost the roof off their Lighthouse Point, Fla., home, and an outrigger and an antenna off their 46-foot Bertram, the final day of the show found them in good spirits walking the docks.

While he didn’t know if the postponed boat show was good for the producers or good for other people, Mark Duffy said it was a great way for local people to get questions answered. The Duffys were looking for a boat with more cruising capability and amenities.

Locals were not the only boaters enjoying the added attention at Fort Lauderdale.

Rick and Susie Lueders traveled from Michigan after Hurricane Wilma struck. After rearranging their travel plans, they enjoyed the light traffic at the show while inspecting sedan bridge powerboats in the 50-foot range.

Though Susie Lueders said they had second thoughts about coming, Northwest Airlines was pretty accommodating. That made the trip easier for the Grosse Pointe residents, both of whom are 45.

The couple routinely comes to the show and said it compared well to shows of the past.

“I think they’ve done a fantastic job of getting everything squared away,” said Rick Lueders, noting all the streetlights, street signs and sand in the streets and parking lots that had to be taken care of to make the boat show possible. “It’s surprisingly well-organized given what it must have looked like last week.”

While all seemed well, some wondered if the show, rescheduled on such short notice, was going to have the positive economic impact local government leaders and show producers were hoping for.

Although he took his two young children to the show, Mike Leach, 44, of Boynton Beach, Fla., had some reservations.

“I sort of had mixed feelings about it, and the crowds show it,” said Leach, who said he goes to the show every year. The show looked the same as in years past, but without as many people, he said.

“I was at the airport and didn’t see a lot of private jets I normally see,” said Leach. “A lot of people from out of town just didn’t come.”

While it is clear the hurricane and subsequent rescheduling reduced the turnout, many who did make it were pleased.

Rick Wrieden, a 54-year-old business executive from Fairfax Station, Va., arrived in Fort Lauderdale after Hurricane Wilma. He had been planning the trip for a while, with an eye toward a new sportfisherman.

“We had to refigure a lot of things to squeeze in the time here,” said Wrieden, who currently owns a 35-foot center console. While the short notice didn’t help, he said he’d found success securing the information he sought on electronics as well as research on the sportfishing boat.

“The show’s been great,” said Wrieden. “It always is. It’s huge. All the fiberglass in the world is here,” said Wrieden.

Like many who traveled long distances to come, he was staying at a private residence. For those staying in hotels, there was some scrambling to find accommodations.

“We’re on our third hotel reservation,” said Anne Menke, 65. Menke and her husband, Paul, were attending their first Fort Lauderdale boat show after riding out Hurricane Wilma in Stuart, Fla.

“Our friends from out of state didn’t come,” said Menke.

The Menkes, who are retired and split their time between Michigan and Stuart, were looking at moving up from their 47-foot Sunseeker to a 53.

“This is our first time here and we’re impressed,” said Paul Menke, who is 64. “It certainly seems like a lot of people.”