Photo Gallery | Set Up Underway for Boat Show at Metropolitan Park

Story by Mike Lyons/First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Southeast Boat Show in Metro Park this Friday, Saturday and Sunday features seven acres of boats and 150 on the water at the marina, so boat dealers are hoping for decent weather.

There are reports calling for rain late Friday, most of Saturday and early Sunday. It could affect attendance, but dealers think boaters can deal with rain to get a good deal on a boat.

"There's not a better venue anywhere on the east coast for a boat show than Metro Park and Marina, right here in downtown Jacksonville, a premiere venue and great parking," said Jimmy Hill of Current Productions, the promoter of the event.

Vendors from as far away as Orlando and the Carolinas will descend on Metro Park this weekend to hawk everything from kayaks to yachts and anything to do with boating. It's a family festival where you can learn about boating and ten bands are going to be playing.

"This is all our sales leads for the whole year, not only sales for this weekend, all the sales for the rest of the year, people coming in prospecting. It's huge for us," said Clayton Kirkmeyer of Backwater 2 BlueWater, a St. Augustine dealership.

George Cassell North Florida Yacht Sales said "we'll probably do 15 to 20 percent of our business for the entire year at the show."

Boat dealers have seen the economy improve and hope to continue the momentum of increased sales. "We have doubled our numbers from last year, " said Kirkmeyer. "We're about out of boats, a lot of boats are on order. Many of the manufacturers are pushed out 6-8 weeks."

While this boat show is crucial to boat dealers business, they say the weather doesn't have to be great, because boaters are used to dealing with rainy weather and will show up anyway.

"The guy looking for a great deal on a boat knows his boat is here and he'll be here anyway, the person who knows how good a deal you'll get on a boat this weekend, he'll come shop for his boat."

Kirkmeyer said "everyone is going to bring umbrellas. People here are serious buyers and weather is not affecting them. Hopefully 10-12 come by the booth and are ready to buy a boat. "

George Cassell recalls just one 3-hour gullywasher on a saturday afternoon in the 15 years he's been attending the event.

"If we have a few showers pass through, it won't be a problem. Serious boaters are going to come out and see the show. If it rains us out solid the whole weekend, it would be devastating." said Cassel.

The dealers spend lots of money renting space, on advertising, hauling boats back and forth and cleaning the boats before and during the show, so low attendance and few boat sales would be a big loss.

New this year: adult tickets are $10, kids under 16 are free. If you buy a ticket Friday or Saturday and it rains, you can come back another day on the same ticket.

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