OCEAN CITY — With winter’s unrelenting grip on the resort area this week, most local residents and visitors are likely looking for a sign of warmer days to come and the return of the Seaside Boat Show this weekend for the 33rd year could provide just the tonic.
For the past 32 years, the Seaside Boat Show, sponsored by the Ocean City-Berlin Optimists, has helped mark a turning point in the winter season for many visitors to the resort and its hearty year-round population and this year should be no different. Coupled with the three-day President’s Day weekend along with Valentine’s Day, the boat show is a jumping off point for many businesses closed during the winter season and a harbinger of warmer days to come.
Now in its 33rd year, the annual Seaside Boat Show is thriving with as many as 15,000 visitors expected to attend. The show will feature over 350 boats, 150 exhibitors and 50 boat dealers, according to Ocean City-Berlin Optimists spokesman Charles Smith. The exhibitors and dealers will offer numerous special show prices and display the newest and most popular models along with the latest in electronics.
The large number of boats sold each year during the Seaside Boat Show makes the event one of the most popular on the east coast. Smith said the Optimists never have any trouble filling the space and actually had to get creative this year to fit everybody in.
“We never have any problem renting the space, but with the Performing Arts Center opening last year, we actually lost some of our exhibit space,” he said. “Most of the vendors and exhibitors actually want more space, but in order to keep everybody and not lose any of the regular vendors, we had to cut their space in some cases.”
Again this year, the annual event is dubbed “the boat show that works for kids” because it provides the local Optimist Club with its largest fundraising opportunity of the year with nearly all of the proceeds invested back into the community in the form of support for local youth. The local affiliate has over 120 members and is recognized as one of the best clubs in the parent Optimist International organization.
Income derived from the annual boat show helps support many local youth and community service programs in a variety of ways. For example, the Optimists hold an annual lottery during the boat show with proceeds dedicated to its scholarship program. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased throughout the weekend with the drawing set for Sunday. Over the last three-plus decades, nearly $2 million in scholarships have been dedicated from the boat show proceeds.
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. In addition to the scholarship program, the show provides the Optimist Club 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. Smith said this week at the Ocean City-Berlin Optimists’ recent 40th anniversary celebration, it was estimated the club has raised and donated over $5 million for its youth-related beneficiaries, much of which comes from the boat show.
“We call it the boat show that works for kids because honestly that couldn’t be more accurate,” he said. “This allows us to raise a tremendous amount of money for the kids and almost every cent goes right back into the community.”
One of the highlights each year is the wonderful door prize which all attendees will be eligible to win. For years, North Bay Marina and Scott and Mary McCurdy have donated a boat for the main door prize and every person who purchases a show admission ticket will once again have a chance to win it this year.
Smith said this year’s show will look a lot like prior year events with the top of the line sport cruisers, sport fishing, performance and “super boats” on display. He said exciting new things each year are the technological advances in the boating industry on display from the vendors. The show will also have financing and insurance companies on hand to facilitate boat purchases.
As the name implies, the annual event is all about boats large and small, but there is much more going on with something to offer everybody. In addition to boats, the exhibitors will include marine electronics, trailers, canvass tops, motors, jewelry, artwork and fishing gear. The Seaside Boat Show opens on Friday, Feb. 12 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and concludes on Sunday, Feb 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $1 for kids and a weekend pass can be purchased for $15.