OCEAN CITY – Over the last 28 years the Ocean City/Berlin Optimist Club has raised nearly $1.4 million at their annual Seaside Boat Show and returned that money directly to the community through grants scholarships and other kid-centered programs aimed at making young lives both better and a little more fulfilling. But the community benefits of the show in addition the philanthropic programs that the club runs are significant.
For example, this weekend thousands of people will come to the area to participate in and gain access to what’s one of the last great boat shows on the East Coast. Economic difficulties have taken their toll on the other boat shows on the coast forcing cancellations and significant scaling back on the parts of both sponsors and participants.
The Seaside Boat Show, however continues to grow for a particular reason that somehow eludes many of the other shows: the benefits to both the participants and the attendees are predictable. Businesses make sales and shoppers get good deals.
“Sixty-five percent of the people who come to the boat show are from within 100 miles of Ocean City,” said Charles Smith, an Optimist Member who runs the public face of the show. “I think the people come here because they enjoy it.”
As evidence, Smith points to the way the program advertisers have changed over the years as local businesses see the raw numbers of people who come to the area looking for additional diversions to go with their boat show experience. Restaurants and even the Town of Snow Hill take sponsorship ads in the program because they understand the size and the nature of the Seaside Boat Show weekend audience.
While a significant number of both full time and part time residents use the show as the first taste of spring making plans to get their boats or properties ready for the coming season, a not-insignificant number of people come for an opportunity to get out of the house and see what the vendors have to offer.
In addition to all the ancillary purchases people can and do make, there’s also a number of people who come to the show with the specific intention of buying a boat and the continued likelihood of those major sales is what drives boat purveyors as well as bankers to set up shop with the anticipation of conducting a weekend full of business.
One vendor, North Bay Marina, has a particular tie to the show being one of the primary prize donors. For more than two decades North Bay Marina has donated a boat annually for the Optimists to give to one lucky attendee.
In addition, this year the Optimists have added to the door prize pot by giving away four chances to win a ticket in their “Scholarship Lottery.” This year three prizes will be awarded, $75,000, $15,000, and $10,000 rather than one $100,000 prize. Only 1,600 tickets — which can be purchased at the Scholarship Lottery booth — will be issued but as part of the entrance fee, attendees will be entered into what might be called a sub-lottery, the four lucky winners of which will get a free Scholarship Lottery Ticket.