Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Boat Show Has Come Long Way since 1947

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Boat Show Has Come Long Way since 1947

Article excerpt

This week's Jacksonville Marine Association boat show, the Boat-A-Rama, will be the biggest ever, with more than 500 boats ranging in size from 8-foot inflatables and canoes and kayaks to 38-foot motor yachts.

But the show, which will take up the entire exhibition hall and most of the outside parking lot at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, had humble beginnings back in 1947 in an era when boating was much simpler.

"We started off in the old National Guard Armory, now the headquarters of the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Entertainment on Market Street," said JMA Executive Vice President John Lowe, who has run the Boat-A-Rama since 1971. "Over the years, we went to under the Gator Bowl stadium, a hangar at NAS Jacksonville, the Civic Auditorium -- now the Times-Union Performing Arts Center, the Coliseum and now the Prime Osborn 10 years ago."

The 53-year-old show is among the oldest in the nation, behind other much-larger affairs like the 59-year old Miami Boat Show (which runs this year Feb. 17-22) and the 90-year old New York Boat Show, held each January.

This year's Jacksonville show, which runs Thursday-Sunday, will have more and larger boats outside on the paved parking lot behind the exhibition hall. That wasn't possible until two years ago, when adjacent buildings were cleared to provide more city-owned parking areas around the Convention Center.

"We're able to display boats outside because additional parking was available in the new lots," Lowe said. "Before, we couldn't do that because we would have taken up all the parking space."

Another difference this year will be that the boats on display outside will be enclosed by a temporary chain-link fence, so a $6 adult admission ticket to the entire show will be necessary to view the outdoors displays. …

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