Year after year, the docks in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are lined with more than 1,000 boats for the city’s fall boat show. But they haven’t always been. Like most success stories, this one has been a journey.
In 1959, only 13 exhibitors assembled at Fort Lauderdale’s War Memorial Auditorium for the first show. But 17 years later, Kay Pearson of Show Management took over and implemented some monumental changes. The exhibition was renamed the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS), shifted to the fall (when builders released new-year models) and moved to a new location, the Bahia Mar Resort and Yachting Center. That 1976 show hosted 103 exhibitors.
FLIBS continued to evolve and Yachting, having attended the show since its early days, was there to see it. “I remember, more than anything, the transformation of the presentations,” says Terry Jacome, longtime Yachting sales representative and FLIBS attendee. Exhibitor displays were only tables with curtains until FairPromotion formed in 1994 and began to provide builders with open and luxurious roomlike stands. “Each stand would be individualized to express the uniqueness of the brand,” Jacome says. The presentations now reflected the same refinement as the products.
And those products have evolved as well. “When I started, a 60-foot boat was big … 100 feet was the monsters,” says Greg Wyckoff, Yachting sales rep, who will attend his 40th FLIBS this fall. “Now we are seeing boats that are 180 feet, 200 feet.”
Plus, FLIBS now hosts about 1,500 boats across seven locations. If you walk the main docks from end to end, you’ll trek 1.6 miles.
How will FLIBS develop in the coming years? We’re not sure, but Yachting certainly will be there to find out.