Dust, trenches, portable toilets and an ocean of new yachts — it doesn’t sound like the title of a press release detailing a boat show, but it is exactly that.
The Newport Boat Show in Newport Beach, Calif., had a new slew of hurdles this year, according to show founder and producer Duncan McIntosh. Yet the May 14-17 show still pulled off nearly record attendance, pulling visitors in droves.
“I thought if you did something enough times it would get easier,” McIntosh said in a statement. “This was the 42nd annual running of the oldest and largest in-water show in the western United States. I’ve had my fingers on each and every one of them, and this was one of the most challenging and toughest I’ve ever done.”
If it could go wrong, it did, McIntosh said.
“We have always dealt with the Army Corps of Engineers by email,” McIntosh said. “Asleep at the switch, I submitted our applications as I always have. About three weeks before the event, I realized we had heard nothing back from them. A quick call to the agency sent shivers down my back. The individual who had always processed our application no long worked there. Our emails were residing somewhere in the U. S. Department of Black Holes. In full panic mode, we pulled out all of the stops and fortunately connected with a very understanding department head who green-lighted us through the system — we were back in business.”
However, Lido Marina Village – the show’s location – was in full-blown renovation mode. About three weeks prior to the show, every bathroom at the facility was completely demolished, McIntosh said.
“Through some small miracle, one women’s bathroom was still standing — we quickly changed the sign to unisex,” he said. “That took care of our workers, but what do you do when there are no bathrooms for the expected thousands of guests who would soon be descending on the location? We rented every portable flushing toilet we could find in the county. Again, we were back in business.”
The main street through the village — and one that houses several land displays — was dug up entirely for a new water main a week before the show opened.
“We were staring down into a 6-foot deep, 4-foot wide, 400-foot-long hole,” McIntosh said. “A local contractor suggested plating it over with 1-inch steel.”
The show opened to seasonal spring showers that carried over into the second day, which was totally contrary to the severe drought conditions California has been undergoing.
Despite the hurdles, the Lido show nearly broke its record for attendance.
“Serious buyers came at the opening, and attendance climbed as the weekend crowds equaled the show’s best numbers from the past seven years,” McIntosh said. “Total attendance was almost 90 percent of the best attendance figure the show has ever had.”
The total number of exhibitors was up 13 percent, and the average vessel sizes for brokerage continued to climb, with powerboats slightly above 51 feet and sail right at 40 feet. What’s giving show organizers, exhibitors and attendees reason to celebrate is the return of new vessels.
“This is the kind of growth we’ve been staying awake nights waiting for,” McIntosh said of his 42nd year producing the show.
“I have wondered on a number of occasions, is there anyone out there who has produced shows for more than 42 years?” McIntosh wrote. “If there is, we should get together, open a bottle of your favorite and share stories. I jest about hell and high water, with global warming an 80 percent certainty; I need to put a little more thought into a high-water contingency plan. A three-foot rise in sea level, by my calculation, puts water at about a foot and half above the seawall cap at mean high water. The boats will certainly be in their element, but dry land? There may not be any.”