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Despite rainy boat show kick off, bigger crowds and better weather expected this weekend

Posted at 7:30 PM, Mar 23, 2017
and last updated 2019-03-26 23:09:04-04

Big money and big boats.

So much is being invested in the 32nd Annual Palm Beach International Boat Show, which kicked off on Thursday.

"It's like having a SuperBowl in your city once a year," said Chuck Collins, the executive director for the Marine Industry Association of Palm Beach County. "It's one of the top five boat shows on the water in the country, one of the top ten in the world."

But did the rain put a damper on opening day?

Organizers say no way, with a steady turn out despite rain showers sending crowds under tents and boats for cover during the day.

On display are about 1,000 boats on the water and 500 on land,  that's about $1.2 billion worth of product.

Rain or shine, organizers say the show will go on.

Collins said Thursdays and Fridays are typically their slowest days any way, so today's weather is not hurting their bottom line. They're counting on bigger crowds and better weather this weekend.

"This is probably the largest event to happen in downtown West Palm Beach every year," said Danny Grant, Palm Beach boat show spokesman.

Collins said he estimates sales to top $150 million, with crowds in excess of 50,000 people this weekend.

"Economic impact for the community in excess of $80 million, so it's a win win win situation," he said.

Click here to learn more about the boat show.

But the sunshine was brief for today's kickoff, with storms sending people and our cameras running for cover around noon. The skies cleared a bit throughout the afternoon but came back in full force around 5:30 p.m. with strong winds and heavy rain.

We met one couple, Mary and Bob Thompson, who came all the way from Wilmington, North Carolina to tour the show.

"We ducked under an umbrella! We're good," said Mary Thompson.

The duo came prepared with raincoats, ready to check out hundreds of boats.

"The amount of boats is just staggering," said Bob Thompson. "I think it's going to take several days to see everything."

John Cohen, a broker for Merlewood & Associates, said he doesn't expect the bad weather to slow them down.

"The show opened at noon and we were busy with clients at 10 a.m.," he said. "We're always looking for sunshine The rain is momentary here."

Cohen added that they're working in a strong financial market.

"With the DOW knocking right around 20,000 points, that makes a big difference to buyers and their impressions of what they're coming out to see," he said.

And the county counts on the industry, with 20,000 marine-based jobs throughout the area.

"The marine industry right now is about a $2 billion dollar impact to this county alone," said Collins.

In addition to touring and looking at the hundreds of boats, there is food, live entertainment and even a floating bar within the docks. The bulk of business for the boat show is expected this weekend.

"A little sprinkle never really turned away any boaters," said Grant. "Behind it should be some beautiful weather for Friday and throughout the weekend."

"It'll probably be windy. So, everybody that's normally on the water, guess where they're going to come? Here, because it's a little rough out there. So hopefully we'll generate even more sales," said Collins.

The boat show opens up at 10 a.m. Friday and runs through Sunday. General admission is $22 for adults. On Friday, kids under 15 get in for free. On Saturday and Sunday, kids 6 to 15 get in for $12 and under 6 gets in free.

Click here to buy your ticket.

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