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Wilmington Boat Show plans to cruise into town in October

The Wilmington Boat Show’s debut in 2016 made a successful splash, bringing more than 12,000 paying attendees to downtown Wilmington for the event. Hurricanes affected the next two shows, with Hurricane Dorian canceling last year’s.

But this year, JBM & Associates is bringing the event to the Port City in October instead of September, with coronavirus pandemic protocols in place.

The show is scheduled to take place Oct. 9-11 at the Wilmington Convention Center, Port City Marina, Pier 33 and the Battleship North Carolina. The presenting sponsor is Yamaha.

“Most of the show, a great part of it, is outside,” said Jacqui McGuinness, president and owner of JBM & Associates, a South Carolina-based boat show management company. “It’s under the retail sales guidelines that the attorney for the city gave us. We are constantly in touch. In fact, probably every other day we’re in touch with the convention center people and someone from the city and the marina just to stay up to date with all the different [COVID-19] guidelines as they change.”

The state’s prohibition on mass gatherings and the 25-person limit does not include gatherings for health and safety, looking for and obtaining goods and services, working or for receiving governmental services, according to the state’s website on Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive orders.

In a letter to vendors, McGuinness, along with Debbie Taylor, operations director, and Chelsea Lupo, sales director/event manager for JBM & Associates, wrote, “We understand how important the show will be to the boating industry as well as to the city of Wilmington, therefore we take the responsibility very seriously and know that we have a further commitment to protecting all participants from the possible spread of COVID-19.

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, JBM & Associates, in coordination with our peers, venues, suppliers, contractors, health officials, and federal and local authorities, is working diligently to create policies and guidelines to ensure the safety of all.”

JBM & Associates puts on five boat shows a year usually, but after January, three were shut down — in Savannah, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina.

Meanwhile, because of a renewed interest in the outdoors brought about by the pandemic, “the boating industry is absolutely booming right now,” McGuinness said. But the vendors that support the industry need events like the Wilmington Boat Show, she said.

Absent from the Wilmington show for safety reasons will be features that could create large, close gatherings of people, including live music and a previously planned dog competition. 

McGuinness said the pandemic has hit the events industry particularly hard.

“But you know, you do what you gotta do,” she said, “and right now our hope is that even if the show is smaller, that people are looking for something safe to do, and I think that we’ll be able to give them that and it will be fun.”


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