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Jacksonville Poker Run Adding and Tweaking Social Functions

Knowing that a poker run actually compromises a relatively small part of a poker-run weekend, the organizers of the Jacksonville River Rally Poker Run (June 4-6) have some new activities and changes in store for participants at the upcoming Florida event. That’s the word from Bill Pyburn, Sr., the father of well-known performance boater Bill Pyburn, Jr., who is one of the prime movers behind the run.

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Organizers expect the Jacksonville event to attract the same number of boats as last year. Photo by Jeff Gerardi/Freeze Frame Video

“On Thursday night we are going to be doing a little ‘pub crawl,’ ” said the elder Pyburn. “Right behind the (host) hotel there are like five or six different bars. One has special drinks, one has cigars, one has good nachos, so we’re going to do a crawl that night.”

A Jacksonville River Rally Poker Run tradition, Friday’s sandbar lunch/fun run will be open to the public this year. “We have invited the city,” Pyburn said. “Now anyone who wants to can come down, and we’ll have plenty of barbecue for everyone to eat. We also are bringing the Friday night ‘wing party’ back to the Metro Docks this year—we’ll have the fryers right down there on the docks.”

The most notable change for the Jacksonville event this year, however, is the lunch stop during Saturday’s poker run on the St. Johns River. Participants will head to Palatka, Fla., some 65 miles from Jacksonville, to the Crystal Cove Marina for a catered seafood buffet.

Pyburn said he expects this year’s turnout to match last year’s showing of approximately 60 boats. Despite that the run typically attracts some of the fastest pleasure boats in the country—and the new Pure Platinum Skater 388 catamaran owned by Bill Jr. should be among them—vessels of all kinds are welcome. The point of the event is to raise money for its longstanding charity called Camp Amigo, a North Florida camp for children who have suffered severe burns.

“Everyone is welcome here—we’ve had everything from Jet Skis to 50-foot catamarans,” Pyburn said. “I haven’t looked lately, but I think we have 25 or 30 boats registered right now. Everybody always waits till the last minute. I think it will be a good run for the charity. When these kids are around adults, they are very self-conscious about how they look. But when you see them together at the camp, they relax. They dance together and they laugh and play together. The boys wear bathing suits and the girls wear bikinis.

“The camp needs the money,” he continued. “Somebody has to keep this thing going for these kids.”

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