MoneyINC Logo
Years of

The History and Evolution of The Charleston Boat Show


The Charleston Boat Show is one of the oldest shows in the history of the nation-wide series of this event. Most of the cities are just celebrating their 35th year. Charleston has taken the lead with a fascinating history, and impressive evolution. It's become one of the most highly anticipated events of the year, and it starts the new year right in January. The show just keeps getting better every year. Boaters in the state of South Carolina and visitors from other states gather by the thousands to see the latest boat models and get in on the heaps of family fun offered at the show.

The First Charleston Boat Show

The first event had humble beginnings. It wasn't the grand and extravagant event that we enjoy today. It smaller back then, but well organized. The first Charleston Boat Show happened in 1980. The event began with just a handful of local dealers who worked together to put on an exhibition. The organization included Hanckel Marine, formerly Seels and Marine Centre, Outboard Shop, Duncan's Boat City, Dorchester Marine, and Summerville Marine. Members pooled their resources and ideas to organize the show to display their boats and boating accessories, according to the Georgetown Times. The small collection that kicked off the decade of the 1980s was a far cry from the expansive sportsman's show that has seen a continual growth of attendees throughout the decades. The Charleston venue was one of the earlier collaborations to establish an annual event that would become a staple for boaters and people who love outdoors and water activities. In many ways, the Charleston Boat Show has set a precedent for the right way to organize and structure this kind of show.

Evolution of the Charleston Boat Show 1980-2001

The Charleston Boat Show's official website tells us more about the changes made in the sponsorship and organization of the boat show from the first event though 2001. The first boat show was small and it was held in a parking lot. When it became popular with crowds of people interested in seeing the new boats, it was moved to a local mall. The show outgrew this venue and a larger space was needed to accommodate the large and consistently growing crowd. The show was home at the Charleston Coliseum until completion of the Charleston Arena Convention Center. The show moved to the larger venue that became its new home. The founding group realized that the atmosphere of the show was a factor for showcasing their products. A show implied entertainment and value to attendees. They were coming to see the newest boat models, but it had to be more than simply lining up boats for viewing. The organizers also realized that the venue must be large enough for massive numbers of attendees. The need for more space has been a constant for the event. The original organizing association did an efficient job of moving the show up a notch with efficiency and consistency.

Moving to the next level of greatness

The small association that had previously organized the Charleston Boat Show saw its success and decided to move the show to the next level. They hired JBM Associates to begin production of the show in 2001. The group produced the boat show for the first time in 2002. The first 20 years saw the Charleston Boat Show move from a parking lot event sponsored by a few local boat dealerships to a massive event that grew fast and expanded with more interest from attendees and vendors.

According to The Island Connection newspaper, The Charleston Area Convention Center is the official home of the show because there has been room for the event to expand into the parking lot. Vendor interest continues to climb with each new show because of the massive turnouts of attendees. The Charleston Boat Show is a community feature that draws not only boaters, anglers, and watersport enthusiasts, but it also serves as a magnet for companies that have want to display their products to the masses. The Charleston Boat Show has become the perfect venue to do so. The number of vendors has grown so large that it has become necessary to expand the exhibits into the parking lot. Half the show happens there.

JBM & Associates took up where the small association of local marine dealerships left off. From all appearances, it was a seamless transfer of management. The group was confident with their choice of event organizing firms because JBM & Associates established a reputation for focusing on the needs of their clients. They prioritize the gestalt of the show by turning attention to creating positive and meaningful experiences for attendees, exhibitors, vendors, and all stakeholders for added value. The Charleston Boat Show is more than organizing an event for the firm, and it shows in the quality of each of their productions.

What you can expect to find at the Charleston Boat Shows

The most recent boat show for 2020 was a spectacular event. There were new features to keep attendees of all ages entertained. Each year new activities and experiences are added to the show. This fresh infusion prevents it from becoming the same production from one year to the next. It also gives the public something new and exciting to anticipate. The timing of the event is perfect. January is a month that ushers in the new year. People are growing tired of the cold temperatures and dreary weather that winter brings. They're ready to get out and do something different.

The Charleston Boat Show is a preview of what is to come in the coming months. The event helps people to get excited about water sports. It's the best time to buy a new boat or other related equipment because the latest models and technology are displayed. Dealers are available to negotiate on some of the best specials of the year at the show. Everyone involved looks forward to the excellent opportunities that the show has to offer. Dealers make direct sales at the event and also take orders for customized boats and gear. Attendees get in on the latest in gadgetry and supplies. It's consistently an exciting time for everyone. The organizers of the event have done an excellent job of making the Charleston Boat Show fun and productive.

Examples of the attractions at the Charleston Boat Show


The 2020 Boat Show featured a new event titled "Women on Water" MarineMax presented boating classes to help women boaters learn how to operate a boat safely. They also learned the rules established by the state. Ladies who signed up for the event received instruction about the ins and outs of boating in a relaxing classroom environment. After completing the class, the students got the hands-on experience that put them behind the wheel.

Interesting seminars

Other events featured at the show include seminars conducted by local agencies. The topics explored change every year. Representatives from Field & Stream and other professional sporting organizations provide specialized talks on subjects that are relevant to boating and outdoor recreation. This collection of special topic discussions is called The Coastal Fishing Expo, sponsored by Field & Stream, and presented by Coastal Carolina Fishermen. The talks happen on Saturday and Sunday of the Charleston Boat Show. This segment of the show has consistently expanded over the past several years. The best part of the show is that more presenters share their expertise each year.

Family Fun

The Charleston Boat Show is a family-friendly event that offers something for everyone. Kids enjoy seeing the Mermaid Oracle, pirates, face painting, and fairy hair. While adults enjoy browsing through the new boat models and equipment, the kids entertain themselves by visiting age-appropriate attractions and activities. Another exciting attraction at the show is an SCDNR boating simulator. It's a safe and fun way to introduce beginning boaters to boating. It gives them a sense of what it's like to pilot a boat in a controlled environment.

Live Music and performances

The Charleston Boat Show also brings popular performers into the schedule. Performances from musicians are sprinkled liberally throughout the 3-day event for additional entertainment.

Boat exhibits

At the show, you'll find more than 85 boat brand exhibits to browse through. Experts and product reps are available to give you a walkthrough and point out the new features on the latest models. Whether you're interested in boating for fun, cruising, watersports, angling, or other watercraft, you'll find the type of boat you're looking for at this showcase. Prices are discounted just for this event.

More than boats

The Charleston Boat Show features over 100 vendors available to display, discuss, and to sell marine-related products and services. Even if you're not looking for a new boat, you can find new gadgets and technology to make angling even more fun and productive. You can also find cool accessories from the diverse crowd of vendors. A few examples of 2020 vendors include Hull Shield, Allegiance Flag Supply, Castaway Customs, and Harbor Solar, Nauti Life, Coastal Touchless Boat Canvas, Rheos Gear Floating Sunglasses, Foxy Fossils, Doggie Ladders, Sea Real Art, and many others. Marine repair specialists are also available to speak one-on-one with attendees who have issues with their boats and equipment.

Community support for the Charleston Boat Show

The most recent Charleston Boat Show in 2020 was made possible by a group comprised of local and national sponsors. The list of sponsors includes Safe Harbor Charleston City, Safe Harbor Bristol, South State Bank, Safe Harbor City Boatyard, Maritime Insurance International, and Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina. Partners of the event were Field & Stream, Coastal Carolina Fisherman, and Dick's Sporting Goods. Rick Hendrick Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram also co-presented the event.

Why attend the North Charleston Boat Show?

The North Charleston Coliseum gives us a little more information on the importance of the event. The Boat Show is diverse. You'll find everything from skiffs, small Jon boats, and ski boats, to cruisers and yachts. Whether your thing is bass fishing in the backwaters, sailing, or deep-sea fishing offshore, you'll find the most current models with updated technology to stimulate your desire. There is at a minimum, something there for every taste and every budget. It's a three-day event that begins on Friday from noon to 6 pm, and it picks up again for more fun Saturday and Sunday. The venue is family-friendly. When you're at the show, you'll find everything you could need to have fun or sports on the water. The list of exciting activities includes instruction and tips on boating, fishing, and more. You can pick up your tickets at the door or buy them online.

National advertisement

The locals in South Carolina look forward to this annual event. Some of them began attending with parents from the time they were born. They keep returning to find out what's new. While the parents are doing their thing, the kids look forward to a day of fun and seeing the exhibits, eating the food sold by vendors, and a full day of entertainment. The event is one of the recommended things to do in South Carolina by Trip Advisor. It's one of the best shows held in the United States and one of the oldest of its kind.

Final thoughts

The Charleston Boat Show is arguably one of the best events of its kind held in the state, as well as in the nation. The history of the event has been well-documented since its original inception in1980. The beginnings were humble. A group of boat dealers got together to form an association to showcase their boats and marine products to the public. The event evolved from a small gathering in a parking lot to a consistently growing group of boat-salesmen and enthusiasts who loved getting together to see what was going to be available for the upcoming fishing and boating season. The Charleston Boat Show was moved to larger venues each year to accommodate the crowds of people who wanted to get in on the action. The exceptional management of the show from the very first show is a factor in its overwhelming success. The Charleston Boat Show is a model that other organizers should consider following for the best results.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

Related Articles

Stay ahead of the curve with our most recent guides and articles on , freshly curated by our diligent editorial team for your immediate perusal.
As featured on:

Wealth Insight!
Subscribe to our Exclusive Newsletter

Dive into the world of wealth and extravagance with Money Inc! Discover stock tips, businesses, luxury items, and travel experiences curated for the affluent observer.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram