With police leading dogs and an armored police vehicle designed to dispatch bombs, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show opened its doors yesterday.

With police leading dogs and an armored police vehicle designed to dispatch bombs, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show opened its doors yesterday.

Kaye Pearson, president of Show Management, the firm that has run it for the past 26 years, said that there have been only a “very small amount of cancellations” since the events of September 11, and “less than the normal amount of cancellations” before that date. “We actually expanded a little bit this year,” said Pearson, who noted that the show has grown every year since he has been running it. “Our theme this year is ‘Keep America Boating,'” he said, noting that historically low interest rates, a renewed interest in family, and a desire to stay home rather than go abroad, might help drive boat sales during this time of economic uncertainty.

“Those events have dramatically brought America together, and family and friends together. This gives us an opportunity to promote boating in a way we might not have thought of before,” he said.

He said the product and boats at the show represent over a billion and a half dollars, and that the show, through its various locations, encompasses three million square feet. “We have the largest number of superyachts, 80ft and above, that we’ve ever had at the show,” he said, noting that the number came in at 211. There are over 1,400 exhibitors at the show, and that the waiting list remains long.

Pearson said that security will remain strong. The FBI ran a check on all exhibitors. The Coast Guard is patrolling local waters, while there is a no-fly zone over the event. Security guards check every bit of freight or bag that goes into the show, and police with dogs roam around the area.

Despite that, trade day on Thursday was robust, with traffic snarled down A1A, and hundreds of new boats floating in the marina. Almost on cue, as the show opened, the sun burst through what had been rain clouds. “We’re going to have a great show,” said Pearson, and if the sold-out hotels in the area are any indication, he may right right. The show runs through Monday, October 29th.