Charleston Settles on a Single Boat Show

By Melanie Winters

The South Carolina Marine Association and the Charleston City Marina Co. came to an agreement that eliminates the problem of competing boat shows this spring.

The trade association agreed to cancel its eighth annual in-water show, which had been scheduled for April 10-13 at the new St. Johns Yacht Harbor on the Stono River. This means City Marina’s new Charleston In-Water Boat Show, to be held April 17-20 at Brittlebank Park and the Bristol Marina, will be the Low Country’s only in-water boat show this spring.

Both sides expressed relief that the conflict has been settled.

“I think we’re all excited about it because it resolves the problem of two boat shows in one city,” said Nick McGinty, general manager of City Marina Co., in a telephone interview this morning.

“It took a big load off my mind,” says SCMA executive director Suzi DuRant. “It let’s us go back to focusing on legislation and education that benefits our members.”

DuRant said the agreement stipulates that SCMA will not hold an in-water show for the next five years from March through July within a 60-mile radius of Charleston. In exchange, City Marina Co. agreed to pay SCMA for the docks the association purchased to hold its show.

Furthermore, the SCMA will have a booth at the show, and City Marina Co.’s show management division, Maritime Events, agreed to help the association with fundraising efforts.

The controversy sprung up last year when City Marina Co., a private enterprise, announced plans to hold its boat show a week after the association’s existing show. The former South Carolina In-Water Boat Show originated in 1999 under the ownership of the Marine Retailers Association of America. The SCMA had rights to the show from 2001-2007. The show has been located at several locations since its beginning.

The changing venue is what prompted City Marina Co. to produce a new event. Company officials said at the time that area dealers wanted a more consistent venue.

The SCMA had worried that the new show would draw dealers and buyers alike from its own event. Proceeds from the SCMA show allowed the association to retain a lobbyist in the state capitol, keep members up to date on regulatory and legislative issues that affect boating, and provide educational opportunities.

In the months that followed, SCMA executives met with representatives of the City Marina and Maritime Events to work out an agreement.

“We had very good negotiations,” said McGinty. “We’re all on good terms moving forward.”

Maritime Events, Bristol Marina and the city of Charleston have made a 10-year commitment to host the Charleston In-Water Boat Show at Brittlebank Park and the Bristol Marina.

“I am confident Maritime Events will design a first class show that will continue to provide future opportunities and successes for the marine association and its membership,” said SCMA president Bob Pilcher, in a statement.

“Like the SCMA, we value the role that boat shows play in the growth of our industry,” said Robbie Freeman, chairman of the Charleston In-Water Boat Show. “The goal of the Charleston show is to showcase our exhibitors to potential buyers, build excitement about boating, and grow into a top East Coast event

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