Last night at Templeton Landing in Buffalo, N.Y. I saw something I’d never seen during a poker run weekend: a spontaneous standing ovation for the organizers. At the end of the awards dinner and party, the remaining participants—and that was most of the 300-plus participants packed into a banquet room—from the United States and Canada stood up and applauded Tony Scioli, Steve McKie and the rest of the volunteers from the Western New York Offshore Powerboat Association for a job well done. From the organization of the run itself to the exceptional value it presented—this year’s goodie bags even included large logoed towels in a choice of three colors—the event was special.
Forget the perfect weather conditions on Lake Erie—what made yesterday’s Buffalo Poker Run special were the efforts of everyone involved. Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.
But don’t think for a second they’ll waste time basking in the glory of organizing the biggest and best Buffalo Poker Run in the event’s 23-year history. They may be kicking back today—one organizer told me he’d had 19 hours of sleep in the last seven days—but they’re already thinking about how to make the event better next year.
“We improved the registration process a lot from last year, but I think we can make it even better,” McKie told me about an hour after the run was finished. “We can make it more efficient.”
“For the bigger boats, the course needs to be a little longer,” said Scioli over a drink after dinner with Mike Fiore, the owner and founder of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats, and consultant Steve Curtis. “We shortened it based on feedback last year, but the bigger-boat owners told us they’d like a longer course.”
In short, these people—all volunteers—never stop thinking about how to improve their next event. Plus, the Western New York Offshore Powerboat Association is tightknit club that cares less about what boat a member owns than what that member can give back to the club. As in any organization there are disagreements, but when it comes to the big stuff such as providing real value to the poker runners, these folks are on the same page.
Want to know what else they have down? Customer service—it’s a huge part of their mission and one I saw firsthand as the poker run registration area was my “office” for the weekend. I have never seen a more gracious group of people handling the check-in needs and very occasional problems of their guests—key word, that one, “guests.” Even with preregistration handled and neatly organized, final registration for 118 boats, their captains and their passengers for a poker run can be a tedious process. And the organizers were unfailingly gracious, patient and—whenever possible—accommodating. They treat everyone like family because they are, for all intents and purposes, one big extended family.
Did I see any unhappy customers? Sure one or two, but you see that all the time. Pleasing everyone is impossible.
Here’s what you don’t see all the time: a standing ovation for a group of poker run organizers.
Editor’s note: Look for a complete photo-filled feature on the Buffalo Poker Run in the September/October issue of Speed On The Water digital magazine. To download the current issue of Speed On The Water digital magazine click here.