The 78th Annual Miami International Boat Show opens for the fourth year on Virginia Key’s Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin from February 14 to 18 at 10am to 6pm. More than 600,000 square feet of space will accommodate over 1,400 vessels on a one hundred percent temporary site that will take about 1,000 people to set up and manage operations for the anticipated 100,000 visitors over the five day period.
Islander News received a preview tour and advance interview with show manager Larry Berryman. His inside scoop was about how this year’s transportation plan is ramping up to shuttle about one quarter of the attendees; the vision of the show makers to be good stewards of the environment, as well as what the latest event features and advances are for a family friendly day on the water.
The Miami native from Palmetto Bay is a US Coast Guard licensed captain with a master’s degree in sports administration from the University of Miami and an undergraduate degree from Florida State University. He has been with the show for two decades and running it for two seasons.
“I could fish and operate a boat before I could drive,” said Berryman.
“There is nothing I enjoy more than spending time with friends and family on the water. It’s a natural extension of what I’m passionate about so I couldn’t be more thrilled to lead this team and introduce thousands to this lifestyle…to live, eat, and breathe, the boating community.”
To convince Key Biscayners and greater Miami that this venue was legitimate took some doing at first. But the logistics of transportation balanced with a keen sense of protecting the natural resources sound refined when hearing about this year’s plans in place.
“Our number one priority is transportation period and keeping it fluid moving on and off the key in a safe manner,” said Berryman.
“We are going from 17 to 23 water taxis. Over 25,000 will be coming over on water from Bayfront Park and Marina. At least one quarter of our attending base is not driving to the show. We have several park and rides from downtown garages…Brightline, Metrorail and transit. For those who wish to park on Virginia Key it can be prepaid. We are capping at 4,000 spots and augmenting our police and traffic management plan to better accommodate ride shares and taxis at the Seaquarium.”
Although last year deviated from the initial years where the Rickenbacker Causeway dedicated right lane and left interior show lane south segmentation was seamless, those glitches are not expected to be relived but rather more improved in the spirit of wanting his guests too to have the best experience possible said Berryman.
A new perk for islanders will be shuttle service every hour on the hour from the Ritz Carlton to the show proper and looping back, as well as expanded Freebie pick-ups to the Ritz.
There is another first, the Costa del Mar Conservation Village where eco-friendly living and co-existing with nature advocates will creatively educate the crowds with original messages hosted by local, state, and national show partner organizations.
“As part of our Kick that Plastic Campaign we are selling re-usable aluminum water containers and offering free water fill stations located across the campus,” said Berryman.
“We do everything we can to mitigate plastics like eliminating straws and Styrofoam. We have plant based utensils and stemware and plate ware.”
“In the basin we have enormous nets to scoop anything that falls into the water quickly. Over 50 recycle bins in the water, and I can’t even tell you how many hundreds up-land, and a dedicated recycle team to keep the site and our environment clean.”
According to Berryman, the 700 or so slips where the over 39 foot and larger leisure craft rest for guests to board and tour, is a welcome cover for tarpon and snook and other sea life.
“Sea life actually increases during the show. You have a floating infrastructure for several weeks for bait fish to have shade. I invite anyone to come out and beg to differ. Being an avid boater it is in our best interest to keep estuaries and bays clean. We are stewards of this environment.”
All water taxis have their own manatee spotters who are enforcing the no wake zone and stopping traffic for the universally beloved sea cows to safely pass. And for the ability to spot family or friends that may have temporarily lost their way, there is a free Raft Up app download that can track you and your crew’s signals.