Planning for the American Boating Congress is under way and industry advocates say this year’s event will not only be important to attend, it also will offer even more to visitors to maximize their time on Capitol Hill.

The potential for amending or repealing a mandate to continually increase the amount of ethanol in the fuel supply is gaining traction, which means dealers need to show up more than ever at the event, which is slated for May 5-7, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas legislative affairs representative Larry Innis told Trade Only Today.

“The ethanol folks come out in droves and they have a big event this year that Led Zeppelin is attending and playing,” Innis told Trade Only. “They’re going to have a huge presence, and people walking around in the same color shirts. The boating industry needs to have more than just a few people there to give our perspective to legislators.”

The American Boating Congress already has 32 co-hosts, but expects to have more, National Marine Manufacturers Association legislative counsel Jeff Gabriel told Trade Only.

“We have a few new twists this year,” Gabriel said. “These are really in direct response to comments from participants last year.”

On May 5, opening day of the ABC, there will be an attendee meeting reception on Virginia’s Jewel for an evening cruise along the Potomac River. “It gives attendees more opportunities to see each other and talk,” Gabriel said.

The event will replace the reception that used to occur on the Wednesday following the Capitol Hill meetings because people’s busy schedules often had them returning to work before they could attend the social event.

This year, there also will be ABC discounts for two or more members from the same organization attending — “a direct response to constructive criticism we’ve received over the years,” Gabriel said.

The NMMA is working to put together a smartphone app for Android and Apple users that participants can download free. It will include such things as maps, directions and schedules.

It also will feature talking points, white papers and policy briefs, Gabriel said. “I’m not technologically capable at all, and I think it’s awesome. I think it really helps participants focus their thought process.”

It will have an instant-feedback option so speakers and attendees can relay information about the way a meeting went. “That will help us direct our efforts as the hours and days go on, and even in the weeks after,” Gabriel said.

The NMMA will do a “Lobby Technique” seminar at ABC this year, another request from attendees, to help visitors on talking points.

There also will be a co-host panel discussion regarding some of the hot legislative topics.