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Commentary: Room for Two in Emerald Coast?

Upon reporting a light news story last week on a poker run that is still several months away—the Emerald Coast Poker Run in Destin, Fla.—I realized rather quickly there was more animosity surrounding the split between the Emerald Coast Foundation and the Florida Powerboat Club following the 25th anniversary of the run than I thought. Not only did I correspond with Stu Jones, president of FPC, but several club members commented publicly on social media and with me privately to stress their skepticism about the event I was promoting.


Thanks to places such as Juana’s Pagoda in Navarre Beach (above) and HarborWalk Village in Destin, Florida’s Emerald Coast provides an excellent setting for a poker run. Photo by Jason Johnson

Regardless of the issues, each side has its reasons for moving on, the fact remains that there are going to be back-to-back events in August taking place at the same location—the Emerald Coast Foundation’s 26th annual run (Aug. 8-12) and the Emerald Coast Powerboat Poker Run (Aug. 15-19) being organized by the FPC team that’s run much of the former event for more than a decade. The news is the news, and my job isn’t to endorse one over another.

Now do I have a hunch which event is likely to have a majority of the exotic high-performance boats we cover here on speedonthewater.com? Of course I do but that’s because I’ve been covering FPC-organized events for a dozen years and I have a longstanding personal and professional relationship with Jones and his team. Do I think the ECF-organized event is going to be a letdown because FPC is no longer involved? Not really, but it’s going to have prove itself to a lot of people who attended the run year in and year out before they return.

I have to believe Jones when he says he plans to roll out the red carpet—treatment he said has been lacking at the poker run the past few years—for his members during his “new” event, which includes many of the same stops, parties, etc. Whether I believe that the foundation, as Jones described it, “is run by a bunch of people who don’t understand what it takes to produce a quality event,” is neither here nor there, but am I going to tell people not to attend it? No way. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some boaters sign up for both events. That’s how much people love boating in and around the Emerald Coast.

We won’t know until August if there’s really room for two Emerald Coast events, but I believe there is, especially if they end up being runs that cater to different ends of the recreational boating spectrum. What I don’t want to see happen, which is a possibility, is that the charities suffer because of the split.

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Emerald Coast Poker Run Ready for Another Big Year
Florida Powerboat Clubs Adds Own Emerald Coast Event for 2018 Season
Future FPC Participation with Emerald Coast Poker Run in Limbo