The same could be said every year, but the 2023 inductees into the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout Bob Morgan Memorial Hall of Fame have been a long time coming. And—as of this evening during a gathering at Captain Ron’s Bar and Grill in Sunrise Beach, Mo., to announce the new Hall of Fame class and celebrate the debut of the 35th anniversary event program produced by Showcase Publishing—the wait is over.
The 2023 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout Bob Morgan Memorial Hall of Fame class, which includes DCB’s Tony Chiaramonte, is going to be inducted during next month’s 35th anniversary event presented by Performance Boat Center. Photo by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
Take Randy Kelly, the founder of Kelly’s Port who volunteered at the very first shootout 35 years ago, or DCB Performance Boats owners group partner Tony Chiaramonte, who has driven dozens of DCB catamarans down the course at speeds beyond 160 mph and continued to the support the event for close to 15 years, all the while traveling from California to do so.
Then there’s the dedicated group of volunteers that take the challenging task of registration and make it as smooth as possible, not to mention the venerable John Crabtree, the owner of Rough Water Dock who donates a ton of time in order to get the course just right.
For more detail on the members of the class of 2023 who are going to be inducted during a dinner ceremony scheduled for Tuesday evening (August 22) at the Lighthouse in Sunrise Beach, keep reading. It’s clear that the 11th annual Bob Morgan Memorial Hall of Fame features an excellent mix of inductees.
A Cross-Country Crusader
Starting with the public face of DCB Performance Boats because he’s participated in the event by driving at least one rather fast boat along the course every year since 2010, Tony Chiaramonte, the man who delivers pretty much every DCB to the Southern California-based company’s demanding and devoted customers, is taking his rightful place next to the fastest folks to ever run a boat in the Midwest’s most popular performance boating event.
Before helping to make DCB’s mark on Lake of the Ozarks alongside one of his business partners, Jeff Johnston, Chiaramonte even drove an Eliminator Boats model in the 2007 top-speed event—he worked for the Godfather of West Coast custom boating, Bob Leach, in the mid- to late-2000s between stints working for Dave Hemmingson, the founder of “Dave’s Custom Boats.” Surprised by the phone call from Ron Duggan, the lead promoter of the Shootout and the owner of its host location, Captain Ron’s Bar and Grill in Sunrise Beach, Chiaramonte said the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout is easily one of his favorite events.
“The Lake of the Ozarks Shootout—and Super Cat Fest—is definitely a bucket-list event for powerboaters,” said Chiaramonte, who recalled being like a fish out of water the first time he attended the event yet now he knows the lake better than any outside of the company’s home water—Lake Havasu, which borders Arizona and California. “It’s probably one of the top three events to attend every year; even if you don’t have a boat you can go there and see all different kinds of boats and all of the horsepower that makes them fly.”
Tony Chiaramonte has been racing boats in the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout for more than 15 years. Photo courtesy Tony Chiaramonte
Talking about flying, Chiaramonte recorded his fastest top speed—173 mph—on the event’s former one-mile course in a DCB M35 Widebody catamaran powered by twin Mercury Racing 1550 engines and owned by longtime customer Shaun Gibson. Chiaramonte’s best speed on the three-quarter-mile course came three years later when he reached 168 mph in a new 35-footer also owned by Gibson.
“I’m grateful for this recognition—I know I’m only as good as the people around me, so this honor also goes to my wife, my family, my friends and the supportive team at DCB,” Chiaramonte said. “I’m so proud of what DCB has done to make its mark beyond the West Coast, and attending the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout every year has a lot to do with that. Our customers continue to push us to build the best boats possible, and some of them have taken the initiative to run their boats in shootouts at the lake and at other events to put their world-class machines to the test. Many of those guys used to ask me to run their boats, but after seeing me do it a lot of them are motivated to give it a try.
“And the cool thing is they can go run the heck out of their boat in a shootout, then head down the lake and raft-up in a cove with their friends, and go boating again the next day,” he added.
While he’s seen the industry and DCB as a company evolve tremendously since he first participated in the Shootout 16 years ago, Chiaramonte said he can’t believe how much the event has grown.
“The Shootout has improved so much compared to the first time Dave and I brought Jimmy John’s M35 with 1350s to Captain Ron’s and just parked it at the docks and watched as everyone marveled at the gelcoat and the rigging of a boat they hadn’t seen before,” said Chiaramonte, who ran his first DCB—an F29 with a single 1,350-hp engine—at the 2011 event the following year and took home the first of several class-winning trophies he’s collected. “For DCB, showcasing our product at Camden on the Lake during Super Cat Fest is just as important, if not more, as running down the Shootout course to prove how fast our boats go. Don’t get me wrong, racing in front of all those spectators is one of my favorite parts, but being able to spend time with our customers, demo boats and play a small part in such a significant week at the lake is what it’s all about.
“In our business, we’ve seen a lot of changes with the outboards recently, but the funny thing is that we were doing outboards in the 1990s when Dave was Mercury’s West Coast distributor,” he continued. “That’s how we started—rigging and customizing hot-rod boats. It’s crazy how far we’ve come thanks to our customers and companies such as Mercury Racing moving the industry forward. I’ve been doing this a long time and am grateful to have earned the respect of my peers and the recognition from an event like the Shootout. It means a lot to me; I feel fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time.”
A Course Of Commitment
Without a personal commitment and an investment of time and resources from Rough Water Dock owner John Crabtree, the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout’s three-quarter-mile course—and its extended start and slow-down zones—the show might not go on. Saving the nonprofit organization an estimated $20,000 or more by donating his entire company’s services for the event, Crabtree takes the course setup and safety seriously.
“It’s a lot of work—and it’s expensive because we can’t ask our crew to volunteer that week when we’re requiring them to be available many hours of the day from Wednesday through Monday—but I enjoy it and I love what the event means to this community,” Crabtree said. “It’s not just our side the lake that benefits either. The amount of sales tax and revenue the Shootout brings to the state of Missouri and our community is tremendous. Setting up the course is a big expense but it’s worth it to have Rough Water Dock associated with the Shootout.”
John Crabtree, left, has been setting the course with his Rough Water Dock crew since the Shootout moved to Captain Ron’s in 2008. Photos courtesy John Crabtree
Somewhat shocked by the Hall of Fame honor, Crabtree said, “I don’t know if I deserve (the recognition), but I appreciate it,” adding that he couldn’t do any of it without his wife, Barbie, son, Jordan, and the rest of his crew.
Crabtree explained that he was involved with the event when it was at Shooters 21 but once it ended up at Captain Ron’s he took on more responsibility and has been setting the course for every event since 2008—although he’s been transitioning more of the work to his son.
“It’s a thankless job, but our guys do a great job and they’re dedicated,” he said. “I mean they’re out there from when we start at six o’clock in the morning and we don’t get done until six at night on Saturday and Sunday since we’re there to make sure the course stays put. So essentially they’re out there in the heat all day for 12 hours.”
A Cornerstone Crew
As much of a team as any that is involved with the event, the registration crew of Jackie Bartholomew, Kim Gericke, Donna Lampe, Jacki Palmquist and Kerry Willoughby help the Shootout run as smooth as possible. Led by past Hall of Fame inductee Diana Dorhauer, the group is going into this year’s Hall of Fame with the utmost regard from Dorhauer.
“The registration team is crucial to all facets of information required to run the Shootout,” Dorhauer said. “The team manages all aspects of racer information used for classification, safety and the broadcast. This team is detail-oriented, ensuring everyone has all information needed to safely compete. I can’t say enough good things about the group and the roles these women play in putting on the biggest powerboating event in the world.”
The registration team keeps the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout running as smooth as possible every year. Photos courtesy Diana Dorhauer
Palmquist has the longest tenure on the team at 22 years and Gericke isn’t far behind with 17 years assisting with the registration process. Willoughby was involved in the Shootout from 1999 to 2007 when the event transitioned from Shooters 21 to Captain Ron’s and returned to help in 2013 and hasn’t left. Lampe, who is Dorhauer’s sister, has been involved for seven years and Bartholomew is going on her fourth year.
“Being a part of the registration team is exciting because you get to meet and interact with all of the racers and their crews,” Palmquist said. “So throughout the years you get to build these friendships and start to realize you are an important part of the whole event.”
Seeing the race teams annually is Willoughby’s favorite part.
“Regardless of how busy we are or what random issue we are dealing with at registration, it really is fun to see everyone and catch up with them,” Willoughby said.
Lampe and Gericke agreed. “I like seeing the same drivers year after year and seeing where they have traveled from,” Gericke explained. “I enjoy meeting the amazing people from all over the country and seeing how far they traveled for this race,” Lampe said.
It’s clear the team is dedicated and is more than deserving of its entry into the Hall of Fame.
A Clear-Cut Supporter
Randy Kelly, who founded Kelly’s Port, a leading marina and boat dealership in Osage Beach, Mo., in 1977 and was involved with the first shootout in 1989, said he was flattered when he found out he was being inducted into the Hall of Fame. As president of the Lake of the Ozarks Marine Dealers Association 35 years ago, Kelly said Fran Steingrubey, an original Shootout organizer and fellow Hall of Famer, asked for support from the dealers association for the first-year event—and the rest was history.
Not only did Kelly continue on with his start-boat responsibilities for several years and give back to the event in other ways through the generosity of his business and it employees, he even won his class one year when he ran one of the dealership’s Wellcraft Scarab P-29 V-bottoms powered by twin small-block engines to a top speed of 74 mph.
“It’s staggering what they have done with the event and how advanced it has become,” said Kelly, whose full-service marina has been recognized as one of the best facilities in the lake area for close to 50 years. “I mean it’s a whole new ball game compared to where it started. There are so many different events now and the money raised is just incredible. It’s a direct reflection on so many things that make this lake area great.”
Kelly’s Port founder Randy Kelly and his family have supported the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout since the beginning. Photo courtesy Randy Kelly
Kelly said he enjoyed being involved with the event early on.
“The marine dealers association had helped with other larger functions, including an Unlimited hydroplane race, so we didn’t hesitate to provide whatever assistance we could for the top-speed shootout,” Kelly said. “We mainly organized a bunch of boats, some of which came from Kelly’s Port, to help patrol the area. I ended up handling start-boat duties for the first five years or so before the fire protection services took it over and refined several parts of the event. I enjoyed being around the boats and the people all of those years. It was a great experience and a lot of fun.”
Kelly has moved beyond running the day-to-day aspects of the dealership as his children, Kyle and Ryan, have taken the reins and are leading an exceptional team of employees that help deliver some of the best customer experiences at the lake. He is proud that they’re passing on the same hard-working, take-care-of-your-customers culture that he’s instilled in the business for the past five decades.
It’s a similar culture to that of the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, which is why the charitable event has lasted as long as it has with an outstanding reputation to match.
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