During the years that Al Behrendt owned and managed Nautical Yacht Basin, he often contemplated having a company 'garage sale' as a means of liquidating perfectly good merchandise and marine parts and that were used, obsolete or represented excess inventory. As it turned-out, it was a year after he and his partners sold the marina and boat yard that Al was able to turn his concept into the 'Dania Marine Flea Market.'
It all began on a sunny Saturday in April, 1979 when a group of South Florida marine businesses gathered on the parking lot of the Dania Jai Alai fronton to do what Al had envisioned; create an outlet for overstocked and used marine items as well as 'scratch and dent' articles and marine products that were obsolete as a result of design changes. Marine vendors at the original Dania Marine Flea Market occupied 56 spaces on the Jai Alai's 26-acre parking lot. For the boating public, admission to the two-day event was two dollars for adults, kids under twelve were admitted free and the vehicle parking was free.
The uniqueness of the event, combined with the variety of nationally recognized vendors, made the Dania Marine Flea Market an immediate success for vendors and area boaters, fishermen and divers alike. Where else could you find all these marine 'treasures' in one place and at such bargain prices? Company names like Mako, Pompanette, Raritan and Lauderdale Marina attracted people from throughout Florida and The Bahamas.
Within the first few years of the annual event, it took on an identity of its own and, very quickly, the name Marine Flea Market became synonymous with the City of Dania. As the popularity of the Marine Flea Market grew with marine businesses, it was acclaimed as 'a bargain hunters dream come true' by the boating public. And within the first five years, the Dania Marine Flea Market expanded from two to three days as the number of vendors grew and more and more visitors were planning spring vacations around the Marine Flea Market's dates.
The event continued to be staged annually on the Dania Jai Alai parking lot for 27-years. During that time, the Dania Marine Flea Market continued to grow with over 200 marine vendors occupying more than 900 spaces. The event changed from April dates to March and ran four days; Thursday through Sunday. The notoriety of the Marine Flea Market now attracted boating, fishing and diving enthusiasts from around the globe.
In 2006, to make way for the Jai Alai fronton's planned expansion, the Dania Marine Flea Market moved to Dolphin Stadium (now Sun Life Stadium). After three successful years at the Stadium and the cancellation of plans to expand the Jai Alai fronton, the Marine Flea Market returned to its original home in Dania Beach. In 2014, when the Dania Jai Alai's expansion plan came to fruition, the Marine Flea Market moved to the nearby Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach.
Today, the Dania Marine Flea Market is the largest event of its type in the world. More than 300 marine manufacturers, distributors, dealers and a large number of private individuals from across the United States and Canada occupied over 1,000 vendor stalls. The visitors, from as far away as British Columbia, browsed through acres of used marine equipment, coral encrusted antiques, new and used boats, fishing tackle, diving gear, marine artwork and other nautical 'treasures.'
Uniquely, the Dania Marine Flea Market offers an informal, almost party-like, atmosphere where shoppers can enjoy a wide variety of good food and all sorts of beverages while they wander the aisles in search of that hard-to-get outboard propeller or a new fishing rod. Admission for the now four-day event is ten dollars for adults, kids under twelve are still admitted free and the vehicle parking remains free also. While the Dania Marine Flea Market has grown tremendously in both size and scope, one thing remains the same today as it was in 1979, for vendor and shopper alike, 'dickering and dealing are part of the fun!'