| Special for the Times-Union
It’s been more than a year since Jacksonville has had a boat show, but the wait will soon be over for boating and outdoor enthusiasts as the Jacksonville Marine Association is busy preparing for its first Jacksonville Spring Boat Show.
The inaugural event, hosted by the JMA and presented by VyStar Credit Union, will take place from Friday, April 16 through Sunday, April 18, at Metropolitan Park and Marina.
According to Erin Johnson, who was hired as JMA’s administrative director the week of last year’s Jacksonville Boat Show at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, a shortage of inventory created by a surge in interest in boating as a way to socially distance while having outdoor fun, was the deciding factor in canceling this year’s show. The 74th annual indoor show was initially set for Jan. 29-31.
“We really didn’t even have to think about COVID,’’ Johnson said. “You can’t have a boat show with a small amount of boats.’’
The National Marine Manufacturers Association, representing North American recreational boat, engine and marine accessory manufacturers, reports that retail unit sales of new powerboats in the U.S. increased last year by an estimated 12 percent compared to 2019. More than 310,000 new powerboats were sold in 2020, levels the recreational boating industry has not seen since before the Great Recession in 2008.
“2020 was an extraordinary year for new powerboat sales as more Americans took to the water to escape pandemic stress and enjoy the outdoors safely,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, NMMA president. “For the first time in more than a decade, we saw an increase in first-time boat buyers, who helped spur growth of versatile, smaller boats — less than 26 feet — that are often towed to local waterways and provide a variety of boating experiences, from fishing to watersports.”
More sales stats from NMMSA
The following new powerboat categories drove record retail unit sales in 2020, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association:
Sales of personal watercraft, including Jet Ski, Sea Doo and WaveRunner are estimated to be up 8 percent to 11,000 units in 2020; with accessible entry-level price points, personal watercraft are often considered a gateway to boat ownership.
Sales of wake boats—popular for wakesurfing, skiing and wakeboarding and attractive to new and active boaters—are estimated to be up 20 percent to 13,000 units in 2020.
Sales of freshwater fishing boats and pontoons boats, often sought for their versatility and entry-level price points and accounting for 50 percent of new powerboats sold in 2020, are expected to be up 12 percent to 143,000 units.
Boat sales are expected to remain at historic levels in 2021 as manufacturers continue to fill a backlog of orders from 2020. Pandemic-related supply chain constraints curbed powerboat production and shipments for several months in 2020, which are expected to subside and restore marine manufacturing to normal levels this year. Additionally, social distancing measures are likely to continue well into the latter months of 2021, spurring additional interest in safe outdoor recreation activities including boating.
“We expect consumer interest in boating to remain strong through 2021 and beyond, with millions of Americans discovering the mental health benefits and joys of being outside and on the water,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, NMMA president.
Johnson is pleased to report that the spring show will have a solid showing of dealers and vendors typically found at the Jacksonville Boat Show. In fact, even more.
Johnson is anticipating having 20 to 25 dealers at the spring show. She had sold out her vendor space for the January show, but now can accommodate those plus others who were on a waiting list because of the additional space found at Metro Park. Johnson is planning to have 40 to 50 vendors.
“People at marine-related businesses are eager,’’ Johnson said. “A lot of shows have been canceled throughout the United States and they’re eager to get back to normal — that is, having these shows and engaging with customers in a family-friendly way and enjoying the outdoors. And that’s what marine-related businesses, water sports and boating are all about.’’
Johnson and the JMA feel good about their COVID plan that was required by the city of Jacksonville in order to receive an event permit.
“We’re doing a lot to make sure we are being safe,’’ Johnson said. “The good thing about this is that we’re outdoors and not inside. There’s plenty of space out there. We’re very confident that we’re going to stay safe and keep everybody healthy.’’
Safety measures include:
- Hand-sanitizing stations strategically located throughout the marina and Metro Park 2 area where the show will take place.
- All vendors and dealers spaced at least 6 to 10 feet apart so there will be plenty of walking room to socially distance.
- A concerted effort to sell tickets online to minimize one-on-one interaction at the entrance gate
“We’re strongly recommending that folks wear their masks — it’s going to be posted throughout the show,’’ Johnson said. “We are going to have limited entrance and exit points so we can keep an eye on how many people are coming into the show to make sure we’re not overcrowding.’’
As for the ongoing construction on Gator Bowl Boulevard associated with the removal of the overhead Hart Bridge ramp, Johnson said that it shouldn’t be a problem for visitors parking at Lot J on the west side of TIAA Bank Field. Most of the road work is east of Metro Park, closer to Talleyrand Avenue and Gator Bowl Boulevard.
As for the show itself, dozens of boats and watercraft will be on display on the western end of the park, and in the water at the marina.
There’ll be free seminars for adult anglers and a clinic for youngsters held during the weekend. Guests will also find an array of food trucks all three days of the show and live music on the weekend.
Capt. Rick Murphy and Brie Gabrielle from Florida Inside Fishing Report, and sponsored by Fishbites Trading Post in St. Augustine, will be conducting seminars on Saturday and Sunday.
Also during the weekend, avid angler Donna Frantz will be giving a “Fishing 101’’ kids clinic on Saturday and Sunday. The three-hour interactive clinic will cover casting techniques, conservation, identifying fish species, and boating safety.
“The kids clinic will be limited to 150 kids each day because of COVID,’’ Johnson said. “We want to make sure we’re being safe and smart.’’
Those participating in the kids clinic will receive a free rod and reel, courtesy of Barracuda Batteries by Continental. It’s the same company that has annually provided the free rods and reels at JMA’s Jacksonville Boat Show.
U.S. recreational boating by the numbers
Additional statistics on the industry’s size, makeup and demographics include:
- Retail unit sales of new powerboats in the U.S. increased in 2020 by 12 percent compared to 2019, surpassing pre-pandemic expectations of a two percent increase.
- Annual U.S. sales of boats, marine products and services are estimated to total $47 billion in 2020, up 9 percent from 2019.
- With the retail price of a new aluminum boat package (includes trailer, engine & other accessories) averaging $36,000 and new personal watercraft averaging $13,000, there’s opportunity for boating to attract more participants as families look for responsible ways to distance and get on the water near home.
- Boaters come from all walks of life, financial backgrounds and areas of the country.
- An estimated 100 million Americans go boating each year.
- Sixty-one percent of boaters have an annual household income of $75,000 or less. Source – United States Coast Guard
- Ninety-five percent of boats on the water in the U.S. are less than 26 feet—boats that can be trailered by a vehicle to local waterways.
- Ninety-five percent of boats sold in the U.S. are American made.
- The recreational boating industry supports 691,149 American jobs (511,117 direct jobs and 180,032 indirect jobs) and 35,277 American businesses.
- Outdoor recreation makes up 2.1 percent of U.S. GDP, generating $788 billion in real gross output and supporting 5.2 million jobs. Source – U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)
- Boating and fishing are the largest outdoor recreation activities in the U.S., totaling $23.6 billion in current-dollar value added. Source – BEA
Johnson is excited to bring Frantz’s “experience and passion for fishing’’ to the April show.
“She has started a Fishing 101 business that specializes in teaching kids how to fish, how to conserve; she’s really good about teaching them water safety, conservation, and she specializes in doing this with kids,’’ Johnson said.
“She feels that’s our future generation,’’ Johnson said of Frantz. “She wants to continue to pass on all this knowledge and information down to future generations so they’ll take care of our waters and be conservationists so we can continue to enjoy our aquatic resources into the future.’’
As for Johnson, she’s looking forward to enjoying a future with the JMA. She’s had quite a bit of experience in marketing, promotions, social media, events and association management. Plus, as one would expect, she’s an avid boater herself. She and her husband have a boat and doing plenty of fishing.
“I guess I was the one for the job when the JMA chose me from all of the candidates,’’ Johnson said. “I’m really excited about that.’’
She’s received the support of boat show coordinator Mary Lou Hull, who’s been with the JMA for eight years, and Capt. Kenny Sherwood, the JMA’s logistics manager, who has been involved with JMA boat shows for 21 years.
“They’ve been a huge help for me,’’ Johnson aid. “They’ve been a very good resource of knowledge, especially since we had to cancel the January show at the Prime Osborn and now do this new show outside at Metro Park & Marina; this is a completely new blueprint for us. So, they’ve been a huge help in making sure that we’re taking all the right steps in doing everything that we need to do in planning this from scratch and pulling it off successfully.’’
“Erin is a pleasure to work with; it’s nice having a female to bounce ideas off of,’’ Hull said. “She asks lots of questions and has been eager to learn about JMA and the boat show.
“It’s been a difficult year dealing with COVID, canceling the boat show at Prime Osborn and planning JMA’s first Metro Park show,’’ she said. “Her confidence and positive attitude make her an asset for the Jacksonville Marine Association.’’
The JMA hopes to make this spring show an annual event.
“As long as the venue is there and we’re allowed [to have it], yes, that’s the plan – to keep moving forward, keep growing and possibly having three shows in 2022 – our Jacksonville show [in January at the Prime Osborn Convention Center], the spring show and our annual fall show that’s always in St. Johns County,’’ Johnson said.
Joe DeSalvo is former Managing Editor of Specialty Audience and Drive Editor for the Times-Union.
Jacksonville Spring Boat Show at a glance
WHAT: 2021 Jacksonville Spring Boat Show, sponsored by the Jacksonville Marine Association. There will be a large variety of boats on display, including skiing, fishing, cruisers, personal watercraft and more. Vendors will be set up for all your boating needs. Live music will be provided during the weekend.
WHEN: Friday, April 16, to Sunday, April 18.
WHERE: Metropolitan Park and Marina, 1410 Gator Bowl Blvd.
ADMISSION: Adults, $15; children under 12, $5; seniors (age 55 and older), $12; military and first responders, $12 with I.D. Tickets are available online at boatjax.com.
HOURS: Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
PARKING: Lot J, located on the west side of TIAA Bank Field
SEMINARS: Capt. Rick Murphy and Brie Gabrielle from the Florida Insider Fishing Report will be the guest speakers on Saturday and Sunday. Their appearance is sponsored by Fishbites Trading Post in St. Augustine.
Saturday: 11 a.m.: Casting Mechanics/Fighting a Fish with Capt. Rick Murphy and Brie Gabrielle. 1 p.m.: Throwing a Cast Net with Brie Gabrielle. 3 p.m.: Dissecting a Water Column with Capt. Rick Murphy. Sunday: 11 a.m.: Casting Mechanics/Fighting a Fish with Capt. Rick Murphy and Brie Gabrielle. 1 p.m.: Throwing a Cast Net with Brie Gabrielle. 3 p.m.: Dissecting a Water Column with Capt. Rick Murphy.
KIDS CLINIC: Donna Frantz, an avid angler from St. Augustine, will conduct a three-hour interactive clinic for young anglers. They’ll go through five interactive stations, learning boating safety, identifying fish specifics, conservation, casting techniques and assembling a rod and reel. At the end of the clinic, participants will receive a free rod and reel, courtesy of Barracuda Batteries by Continental. The clinics are limited to 150 youngsters each day. Kids can join the clinic while it’s taking place as long as there’s space.
FOOD TRUCKS: There’ll be a variety of food trucks at Metro Park during the three-day show. Friday: EZ Eats by Yaya; Viva Mi Familia; and Twisted Philly. Saturday: Twisted Okie BBQ and Tacos; Son of a Butcher; What’s the Catch; Pizza Brigade; and Tikiz Shaved Ice, Ice Cream & Gourmet Sorbets. Sunday: Island Girl Seafood; Mamas Food; Chinchillas; Josie’s Latin Fusion; and Tikiz Shaved Ice & Ice Cream.