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Miami show protest attracts small turnout

The Miami Herald, in its coverage of the event, said the protest “mostly flopped."

An environmental protest to oppose the Miami International Boat Show — which organizers said would draw thousands of people to Virginia Key — wound up with only a few dozen people showing up to wave banners.

The Miami Herald, in its coverage of the event, said the protest “mostly flopped” and that “it was a disappointing turnout for organizers, and may have actually undercut claims that the vast scope of the boat show’s Presidents Day weekend event has prompted intense opposition.”

“The poor turnout … really demonstrates that there is little opposition to the boat show,” Ellen Hopkins, a spokeswoman for show organizer National Marine Manufacturers Association, told Trade Only Today in an email.

“I don't think that there is opposition to the boat show, I really don't, other than the leadership in Key Biscayne,” Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado told the Herald.

Bold predictions about the size of the gathering were advertised by Schwartz Media Strategies, according to the paper.

Schwartz Media is a public relations firm hired by the Village of Key Biscayne, which is suing the city and the NMMA.

Key Biscayne’s leadership has opposed the Miami show’s planned move from the Miami Beach Convention Center, which will undergo renovations during the next two years, to the Miami Marine Stadium and Park Basin on Virginia Key. The stadium has sat in disrepair for years since Hurricane Andrew battered it. Miami officials say this move is one step toward revitalizing the area and eventually the stadium.

Plans have continued despite opposition.

“It’s such a big deal for our industry,” Boston Whaler sales, marketing and customer service vice president Jeff Vaughn told Trade Only. “We’ve added a couple hundred people to our payroll. These main events, whether it’s Fort Lauderdale [International Boat Show] or Miami, we sell a lot of our product at those shows, and if that show were to go away, all those sales would not be able to be replaced.”

The Miami show “creates that excitement and enthusiasm because buying a boat is an emotional thing,” Vaughn added. “I think if that show were not successful, I know it would impact our business, and I think a lot of smaller competitors that book half their product at those shows would be in trouble. It does impact jobs. All these boats are built by hand. There’s no robots in boats.”

“The Miami International Boat Show has a record of protecting and respecting the environment that surrounds its events, and we intend to uphold this track record,” NMMA vice president and Miami show manager Cathy Rick-Joule said.

“We have been working with all relevant environmental regulatory agencies to ensure that any sea life in the area is not harmed and we comply with all requirements, while ensuring the boat show can continue it's $600 million economic impact and 74-year legacy of celebrating the community's boating pastime.”

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