Commentary: Desert Storm’s Street Cred

Jason Johnson, my partner in, and I reached the east end of the Desert Storm Street Party last night just before 7 p.m. The mile-and-a-half stroll up McCulloch Boulevard took the better part of two hours. By any measure, even if we’d crawled there on our hands and knees, that’s not a blistering pace.

Welcome to the 2012 Desert Storm Fair.

Welcome to the 2012 Desert Storm Street Party in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

But there were people to see. Thousands of them. Marine industry hands to shake. Hundreds of them. Babies to kiss. (OK, none of them.) And the simple biomass of all those people, plus a street narrowed by vendor booths and go-fast boats, made moving forward a chore. Click here to see more photos.

But that, as a former chief financial officer friend of mine likes to say, is a high-class problem. The Desert Storm Street Party is a raging success.

Do boat builders sell a lot of new models there? No. A tiny fraction of the people in the street each year are interested in buying a new boat. (But boats reportedly did sell well at the Lake Havasu Boat Show the weekend prior.) Do the aftermarket product vendors move a lot of product? Some, I’m told, but not a ton.

But what every exhibitor does from the moment the show opens at noon to the time it closes at 9 p.m. is answer questions from folks who may never be customers but are captivated by the go-fast boat eye-candy and paraphernalia that lines the street.

Example: While Johnson, was doing an interview with Bruce Bullock of Texas-based Bullock Marine—Bullock has been coming to the event for the last 12 years—I took a seat on the trailer holding Phantom, a 48-foot-long catamaran from Marine Technology, Inc. A woman I would put somewhere in her late seventies to early eighties walked up to me with this huge grin, touched the boat behind me and said, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be on the water in a boat. It must be like flying—it must be so exciting.”

I told her it was. There were tears in her eyes, I swear, when she walked away.

Let’s face it, folks, the general public isn’t exactly in love with the high-performance powerboat world. We are generally perceived as loud and tacky and wasteful and reckless. So anything that creates a positive impression for us, anything that makes people say things like “It must be like flying—it must be so exciting,” is a very good thing.

To that end, I would argue that the Desert Storm Street Party is more important than today’s poker run and tomorrow’s top-speed shootout, events the masses can see but have a hard time getting close to. The Street Party gives those outside our world a chance to touch it, maybe even a chance to dream about it.

And that give us Street Cred.