Rough sailing for Southeast U.S. Boat Show

It was on. Then it was off. Now it’s on again, thanks to three area businessmen who stepped in when the 21st Annual Southeast U.S. Boat Show’s producer, Current Productions, ran afoul of the City of Jacksonville’s Office of Special Events.

The three-day nautical festival, supposedly scheduled for the weekend of April 22-24 at Metropolitan Park, was “cancelled” after event founder and organizer Jimmy Hill discovered he had not locked down the dates for the venue and was, instead, locked out of Metropolitan Park.

According to the city, the Welcome to Rockville music festival had reserved the same weekend to begin preparations for its annual event the following weekend, April 29-30.

Despite negotiations between Current Productions and Danny Wimmer Presents, the Rockville organizers, Hill announced on April 17 the show was cancelled. However, according to the city, it was never scheduled.

“While we value our long-standing relationship with the Southeast U.S. Boat Show, Current Productions had failed to make final payments to the City for their 2016 event, which did not allow them to reserve 2017 dates,” said Marsha G. Oliver, Director, Public Affairs, in a statement.

“For nearly a year (June 2016), the City had been in communications with Current Productions about this and offered a payment plan, alternative options, and collection attempts which resulted in a bounced check by Current Productions,” Oliver said. “We have even facilitated communications with them and Danny Wimmer Presents to determine a potential solution that would support both interests. It is my understanding that these efforts have been unsuccessful.”

On April 20, businessmen in the boating industry stepped in to ensure that the show would go on. Carl Cannon, owner of Atlantic Coast Marine; Dick Boger, owner of Dick Boger Yacht Sales, and Rusty Gardner, co-owner of Jacksonville Marine, came together as members of the Jacksonville Marine Association to salvage the event, which now has been scheduled for May 19-21 at Metropolitan Park.

Gardner, a JMA board member, said they were working with the city to support the boating community and JMA members. Many boat dealers and vendors had already spent upwards of thousands of dollars in preparation, including boat detailing, exhibits and marketing.

“Some 25 to 26 boat dealers would have lost in excess of $350,000 total in deposits,” said Boger, JMA board president. “They needed the show to go on to recoup their deposits and needed that jump start for their season to get off the ground.”

If Hill had not accepted the May dates, the next available opening at Metro Park was in June – too late for the boating season.

“In the boat business, you need to jump-start the season in the spring, not the summer,” Boger said. “A summer boat show was strictly not in the cards.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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