In its first three years, the Erie Poker Run in Pennsylvania earned a solid reputation for evil water—not exactly the sort of buzz a fledgling event needs. So what kept 20 to 30 high-performance powerboat owners and their guests coming to the event, which has been hosted at the Erie Sheraton Bayfront Hotel since its inception, each year?
The answer is simple. Organizer Anthony Scioli of Elite Poker Runs LLC.
Having participated in the inaugural rough-water Erie Poker Run and this year’s event, New York’s Kelly O’Hara made the most of last Saturday’s mellow conditions. Photos by Jeff Helmkamp copyright Helmkamp Photos.
“Anthony is a great guy—first and foremost—and he always puts on a great event,” said Jason Lindemann of Oshkosh, Wis.-based Sweetwater Performance Center and Marina, one of the event’s primary sponsors. “And with so many things getting canceled and changed due to restrictions, we felt giving our support to other runs that help support their charity is the right thing to do.”
Scioli had an even 30 boats registered for last weekend’s run and, if its four-year string of great weather and ideal conditions keeps up, he’ll likely see more go-fast powerboats from the Northeast join the event if he holds it again. That’s something the Buffalo, N.Y., restaurant owner grapples with every year when his Erie event is complete.
But Scioli isn’t looking for massive growth. He’s organized 80- to 100-boat events in his hometown. He has zero interest in doing that again.
“I like the smaller-format events,” he said. “Everyone hangs out together and gets to know each other. Mostly because of that, this weekend was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a poker run.
“Of course, absolutely perfect weather always makes it better,” he added, then laughed. “We had maybe one-footers on the lake and the weather was just beautiful.”
Enjoy more images of the seventh annual Erie Poker Run in the slideshow above.
Seabound Yachts principal Jeremy Cohen, who is based in Clayton, N.Y., and was an event sponsor this year, also appreciated the event’s small-group atmosphere.
“It was different than the bigger runs I’ve done and I really enjoyed it—and I met a lot of people,” he said. “I really have to give it to Tony. The event was run as smooth as butter.”
Of the 30 boats registered for the event, 28 made it on the run—one boat broke down and another didn’t show—last Saturday and seven made it to the final stop of the day. That was a first for the Erie happening.
Among the participants who went the distance was Kelly O’Hara, who owns a 36-foot MTI catamaran. It was the first trip to the Erie run for the well-known New York-based performance-boat enthusiast since he participated in the inaugural event seven years ago.
“This year, the key strengths of the Erie run were Elite’s top-notch planning and hospitality and Erie’s beautiful waterfront hotel and marina, which combined with great weather resulted in fun water conditions and an ultimate event,” he said.
In from Southern California, high-performance marine insurance man and event backer Devin Wozencraft also appreciated the water conditions.
“They were great, thankfully,” he said. “We ran 60 miles north at about 60 mph, then later in the day on the return trip we ran 80 mph the whole way for about 122 miles total. It was fantastic.”
Scioli is now back at home and a tad busy with a new addition to his family due tomorrow—his wife, Sara, is pregnant with their second son—and a home remodel to shepherd through completion. He’s understandably relieved to have the Erie event behind him and said he hasn’t even thought about next year’s run.
“I honestly don’t know—we’ll see what happens,” he said. “But you know, Erie has a giant new beer garden and a new rooftop patio bar. One of my customers who has done the run all seven years told me he can’t believe how much the area has changed since year one. Erie is doing waterfront right.”
A loyal Erie Poker Run sponsor and participant, Erie local David Weschler ran his beautiful 52-foot Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats V-bottom in the event.