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Power Squadrons begins second century with meeting at Hyatt
One of the new attractions at the 2014 United States Power Squadrons annual meeting is a computerized boating simulator.
An exhibit area at the hotel is filled with vendors and silent auction items.
When a sailor finds a friendly, properly outfitted port of call, it's likely the sailor will drop anchor there again. That's what has happened with the United States Power Squadrons and the Hyatt Downtown.

More than 1,000 delegates are registered for the marine organization's 100th annual meeting, which concludes Sunday at the hotel.

"It's close to the water, it's a good size facility and the accommodations are great. It works," said spokesman Glen Sherman.

This year marks the third time, and the second year in a row, the group has selected Jacksonville and the Hyatt for its annual meeting.

The group has about 40,000 members organized into more than 400 local squadrons in the United States and Puerto Rico. Organized in 1914, it is a nonprofit educational organization whose mission is to make recreational boating safer and more enjoyable by teaching classes in navigations, seamanship and related subjects.

"There is more to owning a boat than buying it. We want you to have fun, but we want you to know how to do it," Sherman said.

In addition to the proximity to the St. Johns River –– one meeting attendee arrived in Jacksonville from New York on his boat –– the site offers other amenities that appealed to the meeting planners, Sherman said.

He said delegates like to use the water taxi service to cross the river to patronize restaurants.

"If you're a boater, it doesn't get any better than that," said Sherman.

For its centennial celebration, the organization has planned a lighted boat parade that begins at 7 p.m. tonight, part of "Yachty Gras," a Mardis Gras-themed event along the Northbank Riverwalk for members and the public. A barge full of fireworks is set to be launched above the river at 9 p.m. after the parade.

Attendees began arriving Sunday for board meetings, seminars and election of a new slate of officers.

Shopping trips and golf outings are on the schedule.

Visit Jacksonville, the Jacksonville and the Beaches convention and visitors bureau, estimates at least 1,250 rooms nights are booked by the group and that the direct and indirect economic impact of the meeting will be more than $1 million.

Sherman said it's a milestone for any organization to celebrate its 100th year and that creates a challenge.

"Now we have to decide what to do in our next 100 years," he said.

The group will make some of those decisions in familiar surroundings.

The organization already has reserved the Hyatt for next year's meeting, Jan. 18-25.

mmarbut@baileypub.com

(904) 356-2466

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