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Jan 16 2020

40 Years And Counting

By Jacqui McGuinness for The Island Connection

The Charleston Boat Show in 2018. (Photo by Jeff Nass).

The annual Charleston Boat Show is celebrating its 40th anniversary as the industry prepares for another strong year. The show is scheduled for Jan. 24 through Jan. 26.

“Based on the current economic indicators, 2020 could be the best year ever for the boating industry,” said Tri-county Marine Trade Association President Chris Butler.

The Charleston Boat Show, presented by Rick Hendrick Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, has an interesting history, all starting in 1980 with a small group of local boat dealers: Duncan’s Boats, Summerville Marine, Dorchester Marine, the Outboard Shop, Seel’s Outboard and Marine Center, now Hanckel Marine.

This group knew the importance of showcasing their products in a show atmosphere. Starting with a small event in a parking lot, they moved to a mall, the Charleston Coliseum and eventually to the Charleston Area Convention Center.

In 2001, JBM & Associates was hired to bring the show to the next level.

“This is my baby. I still remember the day I signed my contract. It was 9/11/2001. I sat in the GM’s office watching the TV while Jim Duncan, the president of the Tri-county Marine Trade Association, sat next to me. We were both in a daze as we watched the news. I never expected to have grown an entire business as boat show producers from this. Now we are in our 19th year producing this show and have four others. It has been an amazing ride, and I’m so proud to be a part of it,” said JBM founder Jacqui McGuinness.

The Charleston Area Convention Center has become a stable home for the Charleston Boat Show, but with the show’s continued growth, there was a need for additional space. Half of the show has now expanded into the parking lot.

“We just keep expanding and adding more and more boats and vendors into the parking lot. I’m just so appreciative that this has worked so well over the years. The show could use twice as much space on the exhibit hall floor,” added McGuinness.

This year’s event has new features, including Women on Water, boating classes presented by MarineMax. Ladies will take the helm and experience a unique hands-on class designed to get women behind the wheel and confident on the water. In a relaxed classroom setting, they will learn to tie proper lines, boat operating and handling, rules of the water and so much more. Space is limited, so reservations are necessary.

The Coastal Fishing Expo, presented by Coastal Carolina Fisherman and sponsored by Field & Stream, has expanded with more presenters. All seminars are held on Saturday and Sunday of the show.

Musicians Pernell McDaniel and Waltzing Matilda will perform throughout the show. There is always great family fun at the boat show, and this year is no exception. Features include pirates, Mermaid Oracle, fairy hair, face painting, an SCDNR boating simulator and much more.

The show is best known for having a huge assortment of new boats from which to choose, at spectacular boat show prices. Manufacturer representatives and boat dealers consider this show one of their most successful each year. There will be more than 85 boat brands and more than 100 vendors selling marine-related products and services. Some of the new vendors include Rheos Gear Floating Sunglasses, Nauti Life, Coastal Touchless Boat Canvas, Doggie Ladders, Foxy Fossils, Hull Shield, Sea Real Art, Allegiance Flag Supply, Castaway Customs and Harbor Solar.

Charleston Boat Show tickets range from $5 to $20. The show will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Parking is free. For tickets and further information, visit

The show is sponsored by South State Bank, Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, Maritime Insurance International, Safe Harbor City Boatyard, Safe Harbor Charleston City and Safe Harbor Bristol. Partners include Dick’s Sporting Goods, Field & Stream and Coastal Carolina Fisherman.

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