Tampa show opens Friday; MRAA enhances MDCE

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The Tampa Boat Show is expected to follow the upbeat pace being experienced at virtually all of the industry’s fall boat shows and the Marine Retailers of the Americas has continued to add punch to its upcoming Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in Orlando.

First, Kevin Murphy, manager of the Tampa show, needed some Solomon wisdom when it came to his show, which will finally open on Friday, four weeks late. It was originally scheduled for Sept. 8-10, but concern was growing weeks before about a weather pattern coming off Africa that could become the first tropical cyclone to impact Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

But no experts could say whether Florida would even be in Hurricane Irma’s path. They said it could turn north, it might go west, maybe up the U.S. East Coast, perhaps into the Gulf of Mexico. Who knows! As days passed the possibility of Irma visiting somewhere in Florida was becoming more real. Moreover, if it was to hit (still a big if at the time) it could arrive around Tampa Boat Show time.

In addition to filling the waterfront Tampa Convention Center this show also boasts a large in-water section staged on temporary floating docks, and that infrastructure was being installed daily as the timing of a possible Irma arrival somewhere in Florida was getting closer.

Indeed, Murphy was running out of time to make a go or no-go decision. Should the show be canceled this year? Is an alternate date available? How much time would be needed to move all of the floating docks and electrical systems to safety? What if Irma turns and does not impact Florida’s west coast? What if she does? Should we stay the course or assume the worst?

We now know Murphy’s decision to halt everything proved to be right on. Ultimately Irma’s eye passed just east of Tampa. That slight deviation spared the area from the worst, but the boat show could not have succeeded, and certainly the in-water portion would have been destroyed.

So as the Tampa show opens Friday and continues through Sunday, there will be reason to celebrate its success this time around.

And, speaking of celebrating, the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas has just announced the addition of a gala Opening Night Awards Celebration event at the Dec. 10-13 MDCE.

The celebration will turn the spotlight on the industry’s workforce efforts, showcasing a series of awards and scholarships to be presented by both the MRAA and the MRAA Educational Foundation, which will present scholarships totaling more than $30,000. They include technical scholarships, the Marine Industry College Scholarship, the Kevin Lodder Scholarship and the Duane Spader Leadership Development Scholarship.

The MRAA also will announce the winner of the Darlene Briggs Woman of the Year Award and the unveiling of an all-new MRAA Lifetime Achievement Award.

“In bringing this exciting event to the marine industry we’re looking to not only kick off our annual conference in style, adding a sense of entertainment and flair to our awards program, but also to recognize the men and women who work tirelessly to make our industry such a great place to work," MRAA president Matt Gruhn said.

The awards celebration will be held on Dec. 10 from 6 to 10 p.m. in the Rosen Centre Hotel Ballroom immediately after the MDCE’s traditional opening-night poolside reception.

But celebrations and awards notwithstanding, all dealers should be planning to attend the upcoming MDCE, the primary annual event for the industry’s retailers, because it’s packed with sessions and presentations designed to increase business success at the retail level. For complete information, go to: www.mraa.com.

The MRAA Opening Night Awards Celebration is sponsored in part by Soundings Trade Only, Priority One Financial Services, SeaDek Marine Products, Protective Asset Protection, Barletta Boats and Boating Industry.

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