Loss of the dean of show producers

I want to talk about someone who is among those in our industry I most admired. Indeed, I was also proud to call him a friend.

We lost Kaye Pearson last Saturday when he succumbed to cancer. Seems like we’ve lost a lot of good people in our industry recently. But, Kaye . . . well, it’s particularly poignant for me, having gotten to know him over 30 years ago and quickly realizing he was a man with vision and the talent to make it happen.

I first met him when he had the idea of assuming management of a mid-summer boat show that had been held along downtown Ft. Lauderdale’s New River. As shows go, it wasn’t very successful or big. But Kaye’s vision was. He wanted to move it to Bahia Mar, change the dates to fall and build it into an international showcase for the industry. He came to Ohio to see me because I had started a successful in-water show on Lake Erie three years earlier. I was flattered he wanted to pick my brains. And, I can tell you that was the only time he was the student . . . after his premiere show in 1976, I became his student!

Kaye accomplished what no other show producer in our industry ever has. He developed the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show into the world’s greatest in-water exposition. And, for most people that might have been achievement enough. Not for Kaye.

His drive and passion led to the most successful series of in-water shows in our industry. He developed the Yacht & Brokerage Show along Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. It’s so big we once hailed a cab to take us from one end to a meeting at the other. True!

Later, he closed off some waterfront streets in downtown Palm Beach and built out into the Intercoastal Waterway a world-class show there. In fact, that show actually opens today and has been, appropriately, dedicated to Kaye’s memory. Then, there were also big shows in St. Petersburg and Sarasota, among other boat shows and events he produced ranging from rib cook-offs to country music fests. In all ways, he was the Dean of show producers.

But it’s a soft-spoken, affable and welcoming man I’m remembering today. He always made time to share his knowledge and advice with those who sought it. With his wife, Cheri, who was also an integral part of his Show Management team, he shared a genuine passion for boating and fishing. Together, they have been widely recognized for their generous gifts of time and resources to local organizations including the Boys & Girls Clubs, the Florida Ocean Science Institute, the Humane Society and the International Game Fish Association. (Kaye owned the Bertram-Hatteras Shootout, a premiere marlin tournament.)

I believe we all hope to make some difference and leave a mark with what we do. For Kaye, the marks are truly many and will be long remembered. But, today, I’m reflecting on this: Because of Kaye’s vision, there are literally countless marine manufacturers and dealers who have made millions of dollars because of what he created. And I know that’s exactly the mark Kaye always wanted to make for every one of them!


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