The Newport International Boat Show has become among the latest events looking for special dispensation from Governor Gina Raimondo, hoping she will approve holding the event, which typically attracts upwards of 30,000 visitors over four days in September.

Meanwhile, another Aquidneck Island staple, Newport Polo is still awaiting word from the governor, with its first match scheduled less than two weeks away. In Westerly, officials are also hoping the governor agrees to a watered down Virtu Art Festival later this summer.

So far, at least publicly, the governor has given little indication other than a comment at a recent press conference that she does not believe that events attracting large crowds can effectively implement required social distancing.

Nancy Piffard, Newport International Boat Show director, said she has been in communication with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, which will bring the Boat Show proposal to the governor.

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While the show is four months away, she said it is important to get a decision now from the governor to see “whether we can move forward or not.”

She argues the Boat Show is important to the region and the state’s economy, the “number one economic generating event for the state in September every year…Exhibitors, sponsors, and attendees sell out hotels rooms during show week, they also dine in our restaurants and use local services,” Piffard said. “Producing the show also provides annual work for many local service contractors, electricians, tent companies, police and fire detail, crane operators, etc.”

She also said the show can help marine based companies, many of which are located in Rhode Island, to recover from the impact of Covid-19. They will be able to promote and sell their products and services “to hundreds of qualified boating enthusiasts – all in one location and in a destination second to none,” Piffard said. “The 2020 show can help these companies get back on their feet after a slow first and second quarter due to COVID-19.” 

Holding the show from Sept. 17-20 kicks off the fall season, she said, with shows moving from Newport to Norwalk (CT), Maryland and then Florida.

“We don’t want to disrupt this synchronized schedule by moving our dates,” Piffard said. “Most of all, Newport in September is a fantastic place to be!”

Asked what modifications the Boat Show is suggesting, Piffard said that as an outside event, spanning more than 13 acres of land and dock space, she’s confident the show can achieve appropriate social distancing. She also said:

  • Face Masks would be required
  • Professional, frequent sanitizing of restrooms  
  • Hand washing stations located throughout the sites
  • Six-foot distancing will be enforced utilizing signage, staff, and security company
  • “Appointment only” enforced by each dealer to board boats  
  • Contactless Ticket transactions: tickets sold online only and scanned at gate. No cash transactions. 
  • Wider aisles for attendee to pass by each other
  • Open sides on tents for airflow, booth displays spaced out accordingly.

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