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Miami-Dade packed for weekend of events

Lured by sailboats and megayachts, urban street art and Romero Britto — and, of course, the lack of snow — thousands of visitors are expected to pour into Miami-Dade this holiday weekend.

The activities started Thursday morning with the opening day of the 72nd annual Progressive Miami International Boat Show at the Miami Beach Convention Center and the Yacht & Brokerage Show on the Indian Creek Waterway. Art Wynwood kicked off with a VIP preview Thursday night. And the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, in its 50th year, opens its gates on Saturday.

Combined, the events expect nearly 250,000 attendees over Presidents’ Day weekend — many of them from out of town.

“Presidents’ Day weekend is the busiest weekend here in South Florida,” said Nick Korniloff, founder and director of Art Wynwood. “It’s when the 30 five-star resorts are at the highest occupancy, when the Europeans and South Americans and Northeast residents come here. It’s a very diverse, well-cultured audience.”

Expecting similarities in audiences interested in yachts and art, Korniloff will have shuttles running between Art Wynwood in the Midtown Miami neighborhood and the Yacht & Brokerage Show near the Fontainebleau.

In its second year, the fair features 70 dealers from around the world, many representing urban street artists or selling Latin American and Asian art. That’s a jump from last year’s 53 dealers. Korniloff said he expects about 30,000 attendees this year, up from 25,000 at the inaugural event.

At the boat show, which includes locations in Miami Beach and downtown Miami, organizers anticipate more than 100,000 visitors. About 40 percent are from outside the state and a quarter of visitors are international, said Cathy Rick-Joule, show manager and vice president of the boat shows division for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

“We’ve definitely seen a continued influence of Brazilians; you hear Portuguese spoken everywhere,” Rick-Joule said, adding that Russian, Chinese and Korean visitors have also been increasing.

Monty Trainer, president of the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, has been busy publicizing the 50th year of the event with pop artist Romero Britto, who designed this year’s festival poster and will attend at some points during the weekend.

“This is the best year for all our exposure,” Trainer said. “Romero Britto is going to be a big draw.”

The show will feature 380 artists this year, 30 more than last year, when about 118,000 people attended. Of those, nearly 40 percent were overnight visitors who came to town for the festival.

Trainer expects this year’s activities to draw a bigger crowd — with a caveat.

“If this weather holds up, we’re in business,” he said. “But if you get bad rain, all your promotions are out the window.”

On that front, the forecast is mixed. The National Weather Service calls for a 60 percent chance of rain in Miami on Friday, dropping to 20 percent for Saturday with a high near 77. Sunday should be sunny and cool, with a high only in the mid-60s. By Monday, the weather should be just about perfect for February: sunny and topping out around 74.

“When other folks unfortunately have it bad, we have it good,” said Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. “I think the country as a whole, with the exception of us, has been experiencing severe weather. It bodes well for our hoteliers and frankly bodes well for our winter season. We’re hearing very, very good things.”

Hotel booking data from Smith Travel Research over the past several years shows that the weekend is a top generator of occupancy and rates: In 2012, hotels in Miami-Dade were more than 94 percent full with rates that averaged about $250 a night. The year before, occupancy topped 95 percent at rates over $220 a night.

Based on surveys of about 40 hotels, the tourism bureau is expecting hotels to be 93 percent full this weekend.

At the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, about a block from the arts festival, all 115 rooms are nearly sold out at rates at least 10 percent higher than last year, said sales and marketing director Will Wiest.

In Miami Beach, the 250-room Palms Hotel & Spa at 30th Street and Collins Avenue is expected to sell out. Sister property Circa 39 Hotel is already fully booked, said Hamid Abdulhafid, corporate general manager of both. About 55 percent of the hotels’ business this weekend is for the boat show; rates are up about 10 percent compared to last year.

Even though it’s not directly adjacent to any of the main events, Kimpton’s Epic Hotel in downtown Miami will be full all weekend, too.

“We’re probably having the best Presidents’ Day weekend ever,” said Eric Jellson, area director of sales and marketing. Occupancy for the 411-room hotel is up about 30 percent, and rates jumped 20 percent over last year to about $500-$600 a night.

Jellson said he believes he can thank the healthier economy, publicity from the Orange Bowl and BCS National Championship games in Miami earlier this year, and snowstorms in the Northeast for the boost. He said he’s not sure how much can be attributed directly to the various events in town.

“It doesn’t hurt that the cultivation of all those things are going on at the same time; it doesn’t hurt that the weather has been great,” he said. “I don’t think it’s any one thing in particular.”