ANNAPOLIS – Despite terrorist attacks and an economy in a tailspin, the 32nd annual United States Sailboat Show promises to be as successful as years past, organizers said Thursday, the show’s first day.
Nighttime security will be furloughed military personnel, but otherwise security arrangements will be the same as previous years. It definitely will not resemble the National Guard staffed security checkpoints at the nation’s airports.
“It will be business as usual,” said Jim Barthold, the show’s general manager.
There has always been a heavy police presence at the show because it takes place in downtown Annapolis and traffic is an issue, he said. But when Barthold sat down with Annapolis police and fire departments to plan for the show, they couldn’t come up with any additional security needs.
“They’ll be on their tiptoes,” Barthold said, “but no special procedures.”
Strong attendance and sales at shows in Newport, R.I., and Norwalk, Conn., both held since the Sept. 11 attacks, have organizers encouraged.
“People seem to be eager to get out and do things,” Barthold said, adding the show draws boating enthusiasts who plan well in advance and are more likely to keep those plans.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s Annapolis Station plans normal security measures, said Petty Officer William Brookes.
Maryland Natural Resources Police will be patrolling waterways as always and “keeping their eyes and ears open,” but does not have any special plans, said Heather Lynch, DNR spokeswoman. Those who attend the show are a special breed, said boat manufacturers.
“A lot of people have saved their entire lives for a special sailboat and they’re not going to let something like that stop them,” said Sharon Day, sales vice president and partner in Catalina Yachts from Woodland Hills, Calif.
Catalina did very well in Rhode Island, which was the weekend following the attacks, Day said. “It more than doubled my expectations because of the circumstances,” she said.
Attendance for the sailboat show has been around 50,000, Barthold said. It ends Monday at 6 p.m. and an hour later the powerboats start arriving for next weekend’s powerboat show.
There are 270 ships in the water accessed by a maze of floating docks. Prices range from a couple thousand dollars to million-dollar floating mansions.
The show is good news for Annapolis tourism as well, said Clare Vanderbeek vice-president of marketing for the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau.
Vanderbeek said, “99.9 percent of the hotels are in very good shape,”
The tourism industry nationwide has been in a slump since the attacks. And Maryland’s has not been much better, with Gov. Parris N. Glendening ordering discounts on park fees and free bridge tolls for this Columbus Day weekend to encourage travel.
Beneteau USA Inc., traditionally one of the best-selling brands at the Annapolis show, hopes to meet last year’s numbers, said Rachel Sweeney, marketing director.
Beneteau dealers normally sell about 60 to 70 boats through the show, Sweeney said. At the Newport show they did just as well as the previous year.
“Security is always good at this show,” Sweeney said. “They’re going to maintain that.”