OCEAN CITY – Charlie Dorman, chairman of the Optimist Club’s Annual Seaside Boat Show, was having a busy day Friday even for the opening morning of the boat show. Some last minute position shifts had been required and as a result several new vendor spaces had opened up.
By the end of the weekend the 28th Annual Seaside Boat Show, would draw more than 13,000 people to the area. As a result, especially given the fantastic weather predicted, the spots were worth having for any of the vendors who were interested. Dorman had been coordinating interested last-minute vendors in addition to the already bustling day the opening tends to be.
There was a steady stream of people right from the opening with many patrons making beelines for specific areas. According to Dorman, some people who have been browsing at the boat shows this season have come to get a quick once over and then to buy. Salesmen were engaging customers familiarly and at length, going over specifications and prices. One salesman broke off one such chat and asked another how much longer the prices were good for.
“These are boat show prices,” the other said.
Dorman made his way around the main floor, taking what would be a regular tour of the various sales floors throughout the day. There were other Optimist Club members available for giving help and directions all over the building, Dorman made the rounds mostly to see how well everything was going and to let the vendors know he and the others were on the job.
The showroom floor was in excellent shape. Dorman pointed out how some had improved since the last show and praised some of the really creative set-ups.
The upstairs conference rooms of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center, where the rest of the show was held, was equally organized. Although fewer people had made their way upstairs early, the frequency with which they made it to the escalator was increasing and the number of vendors who were unengaged was shrinking significantly.
Upstairs still had a number of watercraft dealers showing their jet ski or motor lines but there were also people from every kind of ancillary industry from boat lifts to fishing equipment to beach gear.
As a community and a region, the area has enough of a boating population that an annual trip to the boat show is akin to a spring-cleaning trip to a home center. People buy items for improving their boating experience and, like many shows of this kind, attendance provides an opportunity to see what this year’s boating trends are before the season is even underway.
As part of his tour, Dorman made his way outside and, upon trying to reenter was questioned by one of the Optimist Club members. The man was gentle and polite and asked to see our tickets. Dorman introduced himself and the man shook his hand.
“The club’s got so many new members,” he said. “It takes a while to get to know us all.”
Dorman said that it was a good sign. Growing membership consisting of enough volunteers to run one of the largest boat shows on the coast means that the boat show will be able to continue to grow as well.
“This wasn’t our biggest year but it was one of our best,” Dorman said after the show had closed. “Dealers sold a lot of boats, they left with smiles on their faces.”
He estimated that in addition to the thousands of ancillary product sales dealers sold 50-60 boats during the weekend.
“That’s pretty good in a down economy,” he said.