It’s a watercraft expo and then some.

“The Charleston Boat Show’s almost like a Lowcountry tradition, a family reunion,” said show director Jacqui Bomar, who ranked the yearly event alongside the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition and the Cooper River Bridge Run in terms of its local familiarity. “You see people hugging each other.”

Notching its 34th year, the 2014 Charleston Boat Show will take place Jan. 24-26 at the Charleston Area Convention Center.

Bomar and her JBM & Associates events management company got involved in directing the show — considered a kickoff to the local recreational watersports scene — in the early 2000s.

This year’s edition has already displayed its mettle in terms of industry interest.

“We sold out of exhibition space three months ago,” Bomar said. “That’s a good sign.” Even during slumping years, the three-day show at the Charleston Area Convention Center attracted crowds of 7,000 to 11,000. “I’m going to say 10,000 people (this year),” she said.

The show’s surging interest coincides with the boating industry’s upswing from a crushing recession in the late 2000s.

“Definitely last year, we noticed the show was up quite a bit,” Bomar said. “This year is even better as far as exhibitors. This is the best it’s been in the 13 years I’ve done the show.”

The expo focuses on power boats, which, according to the show’s website, includes “everything from small john boats, skiffs and cruisers, to yachts and ski boats. There is something for everyone’s taste and budget.” Bomar says at least one sailboat maker will take part.

Meanwhile, the show keeps growing to where organizers now put half the boats outside. Bomar didn’t have an exact count but noted “there’s definitely a few hundred” boats that will be displayed inside and outdoors.

Along with the dozens of new-model watercraft on hand, the show will offer eye-catching first-time exhibits.

According to the online site, the Russian Tupolev N007 “flying boat” will be exhibited through the weekend. Designed to rescue downed pilots in the Arctic Circle, “this unique piece of Cold War history” was capable of reaching speeds topping 120 mph, show organizers said.

Then there’s “The Plundering Pirates of Paradise,” raiders of the high seas who will entertain show-goers Saturday at noon and 3 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Other spotlights include knot tying, face painting, a “kiddy bouncy house” and an S.C. Department of Natural Resources fishing simulator.

In a new event, Coastal Angler magazine Saturday will be hosting “Angler Academy,” described as the Lowcountry’s premier comprehensive fishing school. There also will be a weekend-long Coastal Fishing Expo where attendees learn about casting techniques, lures and accessories. “Fishing is so huge in Charleston,” Bomar said.

“We try to do things for everyone, all different ages,” she said. “We get kids, a lot of women, a lot of families.”

The show’s bread-and-butter, however, remains the boat displays. At least 20 boat and marine products dealers will be showing off their watercraft this year. “Everywhere you look, there are new products and services,” Bomar said.

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Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or


- Year: 34th annual

- Dates: Jan. 24-26

- Location: Charleston Area Convention Center

- Hours: Friday, noon-7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

- Tickets: adults, $9; children 4-12, $4; children 3 and below, free; military, $5 with valid ID.

- Parking: free.

Sources: Charleston Boat Show, JBM & Associates.