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Florida Toys Tour Is Another Huge Hit

With one mission—to collect as many toys as possible for the children of Florida’s Putnam County who otherwise wouldn’t receive gifts this holiday season—the 18th annual Toys Tour run on the St. Johns River in Central Florida was another smashing success.

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Boats of all types turned out for last weekend’s Toys Tour on the St. Johns River in Palatka, Fla. Photos by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix

Hosted by Crystal Cove Riverfront Resort in Palatka, Fla., and longtime event organizer Rus Matos in conjunction with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, Saturday’s 2018 Toys Tour went off smoothly and ended up with another incredible haul of unwrapped toys—enough to fill the Sheriff’s Office utility trailer.

The boating, of course, was amazing—as it usually is on the St. Johns. Fortunately for the 100-plus participants in the few dozen boats that turned out for the run, the weather wasn’t as cold as it has been the past few years.

“It was a great event again, we had a blast,” said Jim Kirkland of Crystal River, Fla., who did the run with his wife, Patty, in their 30-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran powered by twin Mercury Racing Verado 400R engines. “We’ve been going to the Toys Tour for seven years, I think—this year we hauled a bicycle in the back of our Skater. We love the event and we love the St. Johns. We go over there about six times a year and stay at this great place we love called Welaka Lodge. It’s so peaceful and the boating is fantastic. There’s no speed limit, no idle zones and we can cruise all day at 100 mph.”

Check out the slideshow above for more images of the boats and the participants at the Toys Tour in Central Florida.

Kirkland said it was cool seeing some of the single-engine SVT boats going faster than 100 on the river—although he said he couldn’t run too close to them in his Skater or the wakes would force them to slow way down. Also drawing plenty of attention, John Hice’s turbine-powered 25-foot Warlock catamaran was a welcomed sight at the event. As expected, Hice, the owner of Gulf Coast Marine Services in Panama City Beach, Fla., had a great time.

“As usual, the Toys run was a blast,” Hice said. “It was fun to get out there and run alongside some of those fast boats. We run that river four times a year with the Scream and Fly folks. It’s a great place to go boating.”

TJ Bailey, who traveled to the event from Charlotte, N.C., said he had an amazing time running around with his friends, Bob and Bonnie Shutter of Boat Repairs Plus & BRP Marine Custom in Denver, N.C., in their 32-foot Donzi Marine center console powered by twin Mercury Marine Verado 300 engines.

“What’s not to love about boating in December with an awesome group of friends for an even better cause?” said Bailey, who is the founder of the online community Boatfreaks.org. “This event is all about the kids and bringing toys to those who are in need. After the toy drop and lunch on Saturday, the weather was so perfect some of us even made the run south to Silver Glen and enjoyed the crystal clear waters before heading back to the hotel. You couldn’t have asked for better weather for this year’s event, and for those of us headed home to cold weather, it gave us one last opportunity to enjoy a fun weekend on the water with friends!”

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