OCEAN CITY – As the name of the sponsor organization suggests, the 26th Annual Seaside Boat Show, hosted by the Ocean City-Berlin Optimist Club, provides a reason for optimism and hope as the bleak winter turns a corner and starts heading for a rosier spring.
For 26 years, actually 27, the annual boat show has marked a turning point in the winter season for visitors to Ocean City and the town’s residents. Rest assured, there is still a big chunk of winter to get through and the resort area will still see its share of frigid temperatures and snow and ice, but the arrival of the boat show this weekend offers a brief glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.
“It provides a mid-winter opportunity for people to get away,” said Ocean City-Berlin Optimist Club spokesman Charles Smith. “It’s always held on President’s Day weekend. We picked this weekend 27 years ago because a lot of people take advantage of the three-day weekend and people were looking for something to do. It’s been a great combination for us.”
Indeed, the boat show coupled with President’s Day with Valentines Day added to the mix creates a perfect trifecta for the Optimists and for the resort. With a decent weather forecast, the big weekend is circled on the calendar for many businesses that have been closed for much of the winter and helps jumpstart a late winter and early spring events season.
Held at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center for the last 26 years, the show traditionally draws thousands of boating and water sports enthusiasts to the resort over Presidents Day weekend. The only year it wasn’t held was 1997, when the convention center was in the midst of its last expansion. While its benefits in terms of providing an economic shot in the arm for the resort business community cannot be discounted, the boat show’s biggest beneficiaries are the local charities and public service programs the Optimists support with the funds they raise.
The show provides the Optimist Club, which has over 120 members, with the opportunity to raise funds for the many programs it supports including the girl scouts, boy scouts, Junior Achievement, Diakonia, Children’s House by the Sea, and all local schools and recreation programs.
One of the highlights each year is the wonderful door prize for which all attendees will be eligible to win. North Bay Marina owners Scott and Mary McCurdy are once again donating a pontoon boat for the door prize, just as they have done for the last 20 years or so. Each person who purchases a show admission has a chance to win the pontoon boat.
“North Bay Marina began donating a pontoon boat for the show 20 years ago and it’s always a big part of the event,” said Smith. “Obviously, the McCurdy family has been a big part of the success of the boat show.”
In another major component of the boat show, the Optimists also sponsor a scholarship lottery with a $100,000 prize. More than 200 students have received over $1.25 million in scholarships the past 20 years. The lottery drawing is held at 5 p.m. the last day of the show. Chances are $100 and can be purchased the boat show.
Once again this year, the show will feature more than 350 boats, 150 exhibitors and 50 boat dealers. They will offer numerous special show prices and will display their newest and most popular models and water-related items. The large number of boats sold each year at the shows makes it one of the most popular on the coast.
“One vendor a couple of years back told us he sold 17 boats during the show,” said Smith. “With the economy being the way it is, a lot of our vendors have said they are really counting on the show to jumpstart business this year.”
Times of the show are today, Feb. 13, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 14, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $1 for kids. A weekend pass is available for $15.