Some events are pure labors of love that happen for all the right reasons. Set for May 16-19, the Jacksonville River Rally And Poker Run, which opened registration yesterday, is a perfect example. When the Northern Florida event started fading away several years ago, South Florida-based performance boat enthusiasts Greg Harris, who owns a colorful 32-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran called Mad Props and Yvonne Aleman, his longtime girlfriend and copilot, stepped up and refused to let the run die.
In addition to happening a month earlier that in years past, the 2019 Jacksonville River Rally And Poker Run has plenty of changes in store for participants. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Much of their passion and commitment stem from the event’s benefitting charity called Camp Amigo, a series of annual weeklong summer camps in Central and Northern Florida for children recovering from the physical and emotional scars of severe burn injuries. For Harris, a good part of his motivation also has to do with hisd background as he comes from a firefighting family. The bottom line is that Harris and Aleman saw something wonderful that was about to disappear, and they refused to let that happen.
So they kept it going while making incremental improvements each year. But with the 2019 event, they’ve made some huge gains.
First and foremost, they moved the dates from mid-June to mid-May with the goal of running in cooler weather. (Last year’s event was held in sweltering conditions.) Aleman also created a simple, intuitive and easy-to-navigate website where participants can do everything from register—the cost is $325 per boat for the driver and copilot and includes two dinner tickets for the Saturday night celebration, one card hand and dockage—to book lodging at the Doubletree By Hilton host hotel to donate to Camp Amigo. (As in years past, the Doubletree will donate a portion of the lodging proceeds to the charity.)
Everything participants need to sign up is—literally and figuratively—right at their fingertips on the site.
“We’ve streamlined it quite a bit,” said Aleman. “When you register, there is a click-through form with all the required fields such as proof of insurance and a photo of your boat. You can add hands and buy extra dinner tickets. You can make donations to Camp Amigo if you don’t feel like pulling out cash, writing a check or pulling out a credit during the event—but of course you can do that, too. The website is very user friendly.”
Sponsors also can sign on through the website. Harris and Aleman currently are looking for a presenting sponsor, three on-water sponsors and three dockside sponsors. As sponsors come onboard, Aleman will add them to the website as well as all marketing material for the event.
Participants also can sign up as “kid sponsors,” Aleman said. Folks “from near and far” who are interested in helping out during a portion or all of the three-night, two-day event can sign up through the site.
In short, Aleman created the online portal to be a one-stop-shop for the event.
“We’re also looking for raffle and auction items to raise money for the charity, and that is mentioned on the sponsor page,” she said.
On the water, there also are noteworthy changes this year. With the move from June to May, the event will no longer incorporate the infamous Jacksonville “Boaters’ Skip Day.” Instead, there will be an 80-mile roundtrip fun run.
“We are heading east for the first time in 10 years,” said Harris. “We’ll take the St. Johns River to the Intracoastal Waterway and then head to Ponte Vedra. And then on Friday night, we’ll have our traditional chicken wing party in Jacksonville.
The Jacksonville River Rally And Poker Run is one of most casual and easygoing events of any given year. Photo courtesy/copyright Yvonne Aleman/Speedonthewater.com.
“On Saturday, we will be heading down the St. Johns to Crystal Cove for lunch again,” he continued. “But we will have one new card stop on the course.”
A few details remain to be worked out. Chief among them is the venue Saturday night’s celebration. “We may have outgrown our previous venue,” said Aleman. “We’re not sure yet.”