When I approached the assignment of covering the New Jersey Performance Powerboat Club’s Atlantic City Poker Run, which will kick off the three-day Atlantic City Festival of Speed just two days from now, I knew I needed a “hook,” something to hang the story on. Without some kind of angle, a poker run story—spectacular pictures aside—is a snooze-fest for pretty much everyone who wasn’t there.
The Atlantic City Festival of Speed begins with the NJPPC’s signature poker run. All photos courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.
So I came up with an idea that my seasoned, grumpy editor scoffed at.
“You might find someone who has never done the Atlantic City Poker Run,” he said. “But you’ll never find a performance-boat owner in the that part of the world who hasn’t done a poker run, especially a captain.”
Care to bet on that, Mr. Editor?
Among the 35 boats making the run from Toms River, N.J. to Atlantic City is a 29-foot Fountain owned by Bill Peters, a general contractor from West Berlin, N.J. The Atlantic City event will be on his first poker run on the water.
“I own Harleys, so I’ve been on poker runs,” he says. “Just not on the water.”
I had found my man, so to speak.
Peters bought the 2001 V-bottom with a single 500 EFI engine, pumped up to 520 hp by Potter Performance Engines in Sarasota, Fla., seven years ago. So, how is it that he has never been to a poker run in his boat?
“I know, right?” he chuckles.
A day of boat rides for veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project follows the poker run.
Peters offers a litany of reasons, from the demands of running a small business to conflicts created by a three-day event schedule. Finally, he blames his wife, Pammy. The 29-footer is small and light and fast, and tends to get a lot of air in rough water. Peter lives for that kind of boating. His wife does not.
“She loves boating, she just doesn’t love my boat,” he says. “And I didn’t think it would be much fun leaving her on the dock. But she has always told me to go ahead and go.”
Peters says that his buddy, Dave Beach, has been grinding on him for the past couple of years to take in the Atlantic City Poker Run, and given that Atlantic City is his favorite place close to home he says it became an easy call.
“I hear it is a very ‘chill’ run, not a race, nice and relaxed,” he says. “I’m looking forward to meeting some new and interesting people. I understand they have a few characters in that group.”
That’s an understatement, and character-in-chief Dave Patnaude, the NJPPC president, says he’s thrilled with the number of newcomers to the run, in addition to an increase in “smaller” boats, in the 28 to 30-foot category. There is even a 32 Monterey Sport Cruiser.
The club has always drawn a diverse fleet to its events, at least in part because it goes out of its way to welcome and accommodate anyone who wants to participate. Patnaude says the draw results from the weekend of activities, which include the poker run on Friday, a day of boat rides for veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project and a car show Saturday and an offshore powerboat race on Sunday.
The weekend concludes with an offshore powerboat race.
Any one of these events as a stand-alone in Atlantic City would be a great event,” Patnaude explains. “Having a poker run, a car show, Wounded Warrior boat rides and an offshore race on the same weekend makes this a lot more than just a run or a race or a show.”
The weekend is possible, adds Patnaude, because Atlantic City “got behind this in a big way.” Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino general manager Tom Pohlman liked seeing the NJPPC fleet docked at his hotel’s marina each June and was a catalyst for expanding the weekend, bringing in other casino properties and the Atlantic City Alliance. The success of last year’s Festival of Speed brought garnered more community support for the event and serious marketing support from GEICO has created a certain celebrity cache surrounding the Atlantic City Festival of Speed.
As for Peters, he’s hoping that he enjoys the event enough this year to bring his wife next year. We’ll find out in a couple of days—and I’ll bring you the story—as I’m riding with him.
Of course, it’s going to take more than that to sway Pammy Peters. In fact, her husband is pretty sure it’s going to take a bigger boat, which is why he’s in the market for a “2006 or newer” 38-footer. Sellers take note: Come Friday afternoon, there’s a good chance you’ll find a motivated buyer at the docks in Atlantic City.
Editor’s note: Look for frequent reports on speedonthewater.com from correspondent Tony Esposito on the three-day 2014 Atlantic City Festival of Speed as it unfolds.
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