I promise: it wasn’t just because it was held in Florida that I was excited to attend the International Marina and Boatyard Conference in Fort Lauderdale over the last days of January.
Persistent rain showers didn’t deflate my enthusiasm for relative warmth and humidity we’ve pointedly lacked in Minnesota. I took a few puddle-filled walks between sessions, scribbled notes during interesting educational seminars and savored the excellent seafood I ate during my stay. The best part of the trip was meeting a bunch of great people I hope to keep in touch with.
After setting up the Boating Industry booth with my coworkers Kathy and Chris, I was whisked away to the Bimini Boatyard restaurant in vans rented by ValvTect for their annual Marina of the Year award dinner.
It was an intimate affair, and I didn’t know anybody in the room. A drink landed its way into my hand, and I walked over to a pair of friendly faces: Becca Smith of Florida’s Inlet Harbor Marina and Abbie McAllister of Saybrook Point Marina up in Connecticut.
Both were extremely excited about their jobs, the industry and the fact that being aggressive and innovative has made a huge difference in their respective businesses. Both of their operations are proof of that mantra. For more on their good ideas, click HERE. I had my first friends in the marina crowd, and things were looking up.
As dinner was set to begin, Pamela Lendzion, director of marina development at Legendary Marine, took a seat to my right. Little did she know how much time I had spent with Legendary’s Top 100 application. Little did I know how much time she had spent helping assemble said application. We shared animated conversation over plates of fish — an unforgettable person to meet.
President Jerry Nessenson presented ValvTect’s Marina of the Year honor to Sonny Middleton and Bob Schwarz of Dog River Marina & Boat Works in Mobile, Alabama. Middleton’s grateful acceptance speech was genuinely touching, and, afterward, I quickly moved in for photos and quotes.
He told me how much he enjoyed our magazine — a surefire way to make friends with a journalist — and he sincerely thanked me for covering his award. What a guy… We chatted whenever our paths crossed throughout the rest of the conference.
I stopped by the ValvTect booth the next day to thank them for the lovely dinner and pleasant evening. Nessenson told me more about the company, and how the marine side of the business was really his passion and hobby beyond the other more serious business he conducts.
In only three days, I met a lot of great people. Furthermore, the conference gave me a sense that marina operators are open to creative thinking, thirsty for good ideas to move their business forward and remain personally connected to the fact that they are in the business of selling fun.
By association, I hope I am, too.