JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Fans and vendors for the Southeast U.S. Boat Show and Oyster Jam will be glad to hear the flailing event might have found new life.
Organizers for the show, which has been held for two decades in Jacksonville and was scheduled for this weekend at Metropolitan Park, announced Monday that the show had been canceled because of a conflict with the city.
But the nonprofit Jacksonville Marine Association is stepping in to try to salvage the sinking show. Board member Rusty Gardner said they might be able to reschedule the event in about a month.
“Right now, we are in the process of looking at alternate dates,” Gardner said. “We will do what we can to make it happen. We are not doing this to save (show organizer) Current Productions. We are doing this to support the boating community and to support our members.”
The boating community responded with outrage Monday after learning show organizers were locked out of the venue when they arrived to set up.
Jacksonville city leaders said Current Productions owed money from last year’s show that wasn't paid off until January and never signed a contract to reserve the date for this year. Because of that, the venue was already booked by Welcome to Rockville, which wanted extra time to set up before next weekend's concert.
Jimmy Hill, president of Current Productions, said that in the past, the city hasn't returned paperwork until the final weeks or days, which is why he didn't realize there was an issue until he showed up Monday and was locked out.
The dealers and vendors who were supposed to set up exhibits at the Boat Show held an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss what to do. They had already paid to be a part of the show, some spending more than $10,000.
If the show is rescheduled, then their fees would carry over, but if it remains canceled, they might not get their money back.
Capt. Devin Smith of Jacksonville Marine Sales and Service said he's concerned.
“The boat show sales for me are huge,” Smith said. “We had the February boat show (at the Prime Osborn Convention Center), and it was incredible, so we were expecting to be above and beyond for this one.”
Gardner said his group stepped in to try to get the event moved to a later date, because the show is so important for his organization's members and the entire boating community.
If the show is rescheduled to May, tickets bought for the April show will work for that weekend. If it’s not rescheduled, patrons will need to contact Current Productions at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if they can get a refund.