A few locals and their boats gathered on Norriego Point transformed into more than 200 boats speeding along the waterways, some surpassing 100 mph, for the Emerald Coast Foundation’s Poker Run.
Donna Tashik, the incoming president of the Emerald Coast Foundation, said the Emerald Coast Poker Run is one of the top three largest boating poker runs in the U.S. It started 24 years ago, when local business leaders Alan Laird, John Reinhold and friends gathered on Norriego Point with a few boats.
“The whole week is exciting,” Tashik said. “The big boats are exciting. You start seeing them come in, and it’s like the last hurrah of summer.”
Emerald Coast Foundation will host its 25th annual Boat Week and Poker Run Aug. 8-12 to raise money for this year’s children’s charity recipients Children in Crisis, the Eleanor Johnson Youth Center, All Sports and the Arc of the Emerald Coast. The event has consecutively raised more than $ 2.5 million in 24 years for local children’s charities.
Various events, including a parade, party and bikini contest, are held surrounding Saturday’s Poker Run. For more information, see the schedule below.
In the Poker Run, the Ruby and Emerald Classes of boats will drive to as many designated stops as possible, getting their cards stamped along the way. Participants will then trade in their cards for a poker hand, given an amount of playing cards equal to the amount of stops they achieved.
The Emerald Class winner will go home with a 2017 Ford truck from Hub City Ford, and the Ruby Class winner with a 2017 Harley Davidson motorcycle from Emerald Coast Harley Davidson. All Poker Run participants will receive a free weekend stay at the IP Casino Resort and Spa in Biloxi, Mississippi.
To register for the Poker Run or find out more information about the Emerald Coast Foundation, visit emeraldcoastpokerrun.com. To register a power boat, contact the Florida Powerboat Club at 954-545-1414 or flpowerboat.com.
Here is the lineup for the week:
Tuesday, Aug. 8
Emerald Grande Boat Parade
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Harborwalk Village, 10 Harbor Boulevard, Destin
Pull your boat and toss beads along the parade route. Advance registration is required. Contact the Florida Powerboat Club to learn more at 954-545-1414 or flpowerboat.com.
Wednesday, Aug. 9
Official Kickoff Party
Blues, Brews and BBQ Party
When: 6 p.m.
Where: AJ’s on the Bayou, 200 Eglin Parkway NE, Fort Walton Beach
The kickoff party is traditionally a luau, but this year’s theme is “Blues, Brews and BBQ,” Tashik said. The event will offer food, live music and a chance to check out boats.
Thursday, Aug. 10
• Poker Run registration pick-up for Ruby Class
Ruby Class Poker Run participants can pick up a cooler with Poker Run instructions and participant passes and gifts at Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, 1500 Miracle Strip Parkway SE, Fort Walton Beach.
• Miss Boat Week Bikini Contest
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Block, 113 Eglin Parkway SE, Fort Walton Beach
Find out who is the 2017 Miss Boat Week at the annual bikini contest, which will include bikini bull riding this year. To register for the contest, visit theblockclub.com. Registration is due by Wednesday, Aug. 9.
Friday, Aug. 11
Poker Run registration pick-up for Emerald Class
Emerald Class Poker Run participants can pick up a cooler with Poker Run instructions and participant passes and gifts at Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, 1500 Miracle Strip Parkway SE, Fort Walton Beach.
Rockin’ the Docks Captains Party
Where: AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar, 116 Harbor Boulevard, Destin
Alexa Burroughs, Austin Jennings, DJ Serpant and MoJiles will perform while guests enjoy food.
Saturday, Aug. 12
• Emerald Coast Poker Run
When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., stops are open 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Power boaters travel from all over the country to participate in the Poker Run, Tashik said. Family boaters have begun to do the same, she said.
Many boaters will participate for the opportunity to drive their boats at high speeds, Tashik said.
“Some of them go well over 100 mph,” Tashik said. “It’s so loud, the people on the boats are wearing headphones.”
People can watch the boats speed by from certain locations. Many people who live along the waterways will host parties to watch.
“It’s the fun of going to the different stops, seeing all the boats, seeing all your friends,” Tashik said. “You’re part of something. It’s one of our bigger events around here … They don’t have them everywhere.”
• Emerald Coast Poker Run Party
When: 6-10 p.m.
Where: Emerald Coast Convention Center, 1250 Miracle Strip Parkway SE, Okaloosa Island
Cost: $ 65 party passes, free admission for Poker Run participants, but they can buy new playing card hands for $ 25.
Guests can enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet, open bar, blackjack, poker and a silent auction. The silent auction will include trips, gift baskets, art, jewelry, kayaks, and other memorabilia. The 2016 silent auction included a signed Carlos Santana guitar and a Rolex watch, Tashik said