NMMA show veteran Joe O’Neal retires


Another of the industry’s most accomplished show producers, Joe O’Neal is retiring.

Most recently, O’Neal served as show manager of the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s New England Boat Show. This Boston show is considered one of the premiere boat shows in the country and his retirement follows on the heels of NMMA vice president Cathy Rick-Joule.

The NMMA purchased the New England show six years ago. But O’Neal’s career in producing expositions spans more than 36 years. In addition to the boat show, he has produced a multitude of expos ranging from consumer RV shows to industrial trade shows. In all, it’s estimated he has chalked up nearly 200 shows in his career.

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“When NMMA purchased the boat show in Boston, we knew that show was excellent and successful, but the real asset that became part of our team was Joe and his team,” Rick-Joule said. “Words fail to express what a genuine pleasure it has been to work with Joe. He’s a kind, soft-spoken, unassuming type that quietly goes about his business and never stops trying to bring value and success to all around him.”

And, it was nothing but success for O’Neal’s last boat show. Crippled by five feet of snow and subfreezing temperatures in 2015, this year the show came roaring back with a total attendance of 51,576, a whopping 48 percent increase over last year. Even better, it saw the biggest crowds since 2008 and it’s no surprise that exhibitors reported unit sales numbers on par with prerecession levels.

So how does one slow down from such a wide-ranging and successful career? How about looking out at the crystal-clear waters from a hideaway near Hope Town in Abacos, Bahamas? There O’Neal and his wife Beth like to spend their getaway time. And, it’s likely Rick-Joule and her husband Pete might one day soon just cruise into Hope Town Harbour aboard their “Cathy Ann,” perhaps to tip a Goombay Smasher?

Truth is, there are not many people on this planet that can point to the combined successes that O’Neal and Rick-Joule have amassed in their respective careers. But lest you think they have sailed off into some Bahamian sunset, it ain’t so. Both can be expected to be around for the foreseeable future as valuable industry consultants.

In the meantime, exhibitors will be happy to know the success in Boston can be expected to continue as Bob McAlpine, who has worked under O’Neal for many years, was named to take over as show manager of the New England Boat Show.


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