When personal commitments and time constraints forced Bill Pyburn, Sr., to bow out of his longstanding role as organizer for the annual Jacksonville River Rally and Poker Run, it appeared that the Florida event, which benefits Camp Amigo—a weeklong summer camp for youngsters who have suffered severe burn injuries—wasn’t going to happen this year. Pyburn reached out to his longtime Jacksonville run participant and friend Greg Harris, a Fort Lauderdale area-based real estate agent and forum moderator for offshoreonly.com, to help spread the word about the cancellation. And Harris did just that in a thread he started in the popular online community’s General Discussion section.
But then something remarkable happened. “I’d like to be able to take credit for it, but another OSO member on the thread said, ‘Hey, why don’t we do something there that weekend anyway?’ ” Harris said. “And it took off from there.”
Less structured than in the past, this year’s Jacksonville event could attract a better-than-usual turnout. All photos courtesy/copyright Yvonne Aleman/Speedonthewater.com.
Slated for June 9-10, the Jacksonville River Rally and Fun Run will not include a poker run—hence the name change—or the card stops, poker hands and event entry fee typically associated with one. But it will include many of the activities such as the Friday Raft-Up and Boater Skip Day, as well as a downriver run to a lunch stop on Saturday, that have made the Jacksonville event so popular with the loyal participants who look forward to it every year.
With help from Harris and others, Pyburn came out of his rather brief “retirement” as organizer to help out with logistical details that include an exceptional room rate for participants at the Lexington Hotel and Conference Center. The hotel will donate a portion of the lodging revenue to Camp Amigo, which continues the event’s longstanding commitment to supporting the worthy cause, according to Harris.
“I’m doing everything I would normally do for the poker run except I’m not on the hook for it,” Pyburn said, then chuckled. “When Greg put it up on OSO, I called him and said, ‘I can provide you with everything I do every year for the River Rally. So I made a few phone calls.”
Already known among participants as one of the most relaxed and laid back events of go-fast boating season, Jacksonville will be even more casual this year. And that could translate something more than saving the run for another year.
For a look at some of the action from last year’s Jacksonville River Rally, check out the slideshows above and below.
“Between the people who have chimed in on the thread and the people who have reached out to me personally, we could have 40 to 50 boats for the Saturday thing, which is more than we’ve had in the past few years,” said Harris. “People can show up for all of it or just one part of it.”
“It’s going to be a laid-back ‘everybody have a good time’ thing,” said Pyburn. “That’s all there is to it.”
Harris and his girlfriend Yvonne Aleman, a contributing photographer to speedonthewater.com, Speed On The Water digital magazine and the 2015 Speed On The Water Year in Review print edition, will, of course, participate in all the activities during the Jacksonville event—they are two of the run’s biggest fans. But with Fast At Last, their 37-foot Active Thunder, likely sold and their next ride still top secret, their ride for the weekend remains a mystery.
“I’m not letting the cat out of the bag,” Harris said. “There’s going to be a quick ‘window of opportunity,’ and I don’t want the seller to be outed.”