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A Family Reunion In Old Kuttawa

Going strictly by the numbers, you might guess that the Kuttawa Cannonball Run in Western Kentucky is an impersonal affair. After all, how intimate can a go-fast boating event that attracted 196 center consoles, catamarans and V-bottoms and raised $102,000 through a live auction for the Lyon County Sheriff’s Boys and Girls Club last weekend possibly be?

Charter members of the original Kuttawa Cannonball Run organizer family, Jeff Hoefling and Audra Meyer were joined by friends for the run in Hoefling’s Outerlimits 39 GTX V-bottom. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

Yet numbers—even of the gaudy, event-record-setting kind—never tell the full story. They’re just easy measures used to gauge success from afar. Of course they matter, especially when it comes to attracting new and returning participants, without whom there would be no funds to raise. But they don’t capture the inclusive, Southern hospitality vibe that permeates the Kuttawa happening.

And the event founders Jeff Hoefling, Terry Martin and Stephen Miles and their small army of volunteers including auctioneer Nolan Ferris and Kiran and Jessica Pinisetti—who handle the frenetic card-play before the Saturday night auction every year—wouldn’t have it any other way. They want you to feel at home and they’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

That was their goal when they launched their first run seven years ago with 50-something boats. That was their goal last weekend with a massive fleet.

Heavy hardware attracts more heavy hardware such as LATE FEE$ X2, Mike and Angela Goldbaugh’s striking Skater Powerboats 368 catamaran.

“I never expected it,” Miles said. “I thought it would be a local thing. I thought the bulk of our fleet would be 25-foot Baja Outlaws.

“And I’m not trying to blow sunshine, but until speedonthewater.com blew it up and made it a big deal, it wasn’t,” he added. “We would have succeeded, but we had help along the way.”

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With an event-record-setting 196 registered boats and $102,000 raised for charity, the seventh annual Kuttawa Cannonball Run was one for the family album.

A high-performance powerboat graphics designer and painter of note, Miles is quick to deflect praise. But without clients such as his friend, Burton Kirsten, who ran his Stephen Miles Design-painted Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats SC 46 catamaran called Jet in last year’s event but couldn’t make it this time around, the Kuttawa Cannonball Run would not have reached its status as a top-flight event. Heavy hardware attracts more heavy hardware, and this year’s run saw the likes of Louisiana’s Nate Michel and Kentucky’s Dylan Thompson run the Cloud IX 40-foot MTI catamaran Michel sold Thompson in January, Alabama performance boaters Mike and Angela Goldbaugh’s Skater Powerboats 368 catamaran dubbed LATE FEE$ X2 and Holy Cow, a 36-foot MTI catamaran owned by Kelly and Julie O’Hara of Upstate New York.

A soft-spoken, humble guy with a surgical dry wit, Kelly O’Hara has no troubling running his 36-foot MTI catamaran hard when conditions are right and the mood strikes him.

Still, Miles would rather credit his fellow organizers and their significant others, Melanie Martin and Audra Nicole, and his wife, Heather, than admit his own name has anything to do with the thriving event, which includes a short lunch run and raft-up to Prizer Point Marina on Friday and the 100-plus-mile main event run on Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake to the Breakers Marina in Buchanan, Tenn., on Saturday.

Getting Ferris, an electric auctioneer/charisma bomb, to this year’s event was a top priority for all three organizers. But between his day job representing Ski-Doo snowmobiles and running a resort property he owns with his wife, Kim, in Upstate New York, he doesn’t have much time. Yet he made it happen.

A proud member and supporter of the Kuttawa happening, speedonthewater.com sales and marketing manager Shelby Mattingly pitched in to help with Saturday night’s auction. Participant Chuck Stark bid $10,000 to take home the unusual, Mercury Racing-branded scooter. Auction photo courtesy Nolan Ferris.

“The people are why I come here—they’re special,” Ferris said. “I do this because I love it.”

Said Miles, “While he doesn’t put in the kind of time Terry and Jeff do, Nolan’s natural talent is amazing and the charities love him. He puts money in the bank for them.”

With a little help from his friend Chuck Stark (right), Mike Goldbaugh bid $13,000 for a Stephen Miles Design-painted, Speedonthewater.com-themed shuffleboard. Said auctioneer Ferris, “This was one of the funnest auctions I’ve ever done.”

The town of Old Kuttawa will be quiet this week. The boating season is just beginning there and each weekend will get progressively busier all the way through Labor Day. And then it will get quiet again. Winter will descend and the marina, save for the houseboats that stay there year-round, will empty.

Come the first June weekend of 2024, the Kuttawa Cannonball Run will return. And once again, whatever numbers it produces won’t tell the story. To really know it, you have to be there, at least once.

Kuttawa Cannonball Run first-timers Chad and Heather Collier of Tennessee ran their beautifully reimagined and renovated 2018 model-year MTI- V 42.

Kuttawa Cannonball Run second-timer Justin Snook of Mancelona, Mich., explained its appeal.

“We came back because last year was so fun and we enjoyed the people,” said Snook, who was joined by his wife, Melissa, and friends, Clay Oliver and Lou Lee, in his Fountain Powerboats 42 Lightning V-bottom. “Some of these people we only get to see once a year.”

Asked about the event’s future, Miles paused for a moment before answering in typically self-effacing fashion.

“Where do we go from here?” he said. “I think we go wherever Jeff, Terry, our participants and our amazing sponsors take us. And none of this happens without Wayne and Lisa Breedlove who own Hu-B’s at Kuttawa Harbor, our host marina. None of it.

“As for me?” he added, then cackled. “I’m just along for the ride.”

Saturday’s lunch stop at the Breakers Marina was picture perfect.

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