Taking the Show on the Road
To the consumer, a boat show is all red carpet and pearl-white fiberglass, but to those staging the show and breaking it down, it’s a whole different experience. They have to unload tons of equipment, position it all spot-on, work through unexpected obstacles, and do it on the tightest of deadlines. How does it all play out?
Larry Berryman, show manager for both the Atlanta and Tampa, Florida, boat shows, says a show is a little like a three-ring circus. Long-term planning starts months out; short-term construction happens within a much shorter time frame. It takes two weeks to assemble, stage, float, construct, wire and plumb the temporary marina that constitutes the in-water display. Then you hope some drunken local doesn’t take it all out at 3 a.m.
The inside portion of the show begins two to three days in advance, first in an outdoor staging area, then on the actual convention-center floor. Once inside, some exhibitors handle much of their assembly. Others rely on the show staff (in Tampa, off-duty firemen) to handle the forklifts and position boats in a display.
“To most dealers, it’s a precise combination of boats versus square footage,” Berryman says. “They get very strategic.”
The fastest part? Teardown at show’s end. “Never in a shorter period of time have more people fallen ill or had family members rushed to the hospital or parents pass away,” Berryman says with a laugh. “And it always happens between 4 and 6 p.m. on Sunday.
“It’s almost scientific. If it took you four days to build, it will take you a day and a half to get it out.”