On any given busy Friday night in Key West, Fla., thousands of people in search of good times and loss of inhibition cram themselves onto Duval Street. A string of open-air bars—many with live music filling the air—line each side of the narrow roadway. Year in and year out, it’s an unforgettable, wild scene, and one that escalates during the first full week of November when the offshore racers come to town.
Even without it usual trappings, the Florid Powerboat Club’s 2020 Key West Poker Run was a winner. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
The Duval Street scene peaks on Friday night when revelers must share space with offshore raceboats on display. Less than small objects, those boats and their tow rigs and crews take up a lot of the street’s already limited space, which on one Friday night a year makes a Duval crawl a bit more challenging.
But that wasn’t an issue this year. Race World Offshore cancelled its Key West Offshore World Championships. That Larry Bleil, the founder of the Key West-based American Power Boat Association-member RWO organization, scrubbed his event before the Key West City Commission could scrub it for him in light of local COVID-19 concerns was a savvy move. Bleil wisely read the mood of the community and exited graciously rather than being forced to abandon his plans.
That left Stu Jones, the head of the Florida Powerboat Club, in a challenging position. Between cancellations and postponements, the pandemic ravaged his event-based business this year. Jones needed the club’s Key West Poker Run, which runs concurrently each year with the races, to happen. And from staggering and staging lunch stops, eliminating the popular FPC Key West Poker Run Village and the large-group awards banquet, he found a way for his show to go on with 162 registered boats.
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