No event has presented greater challenges to Stu Jones of the Florida Powerboat Club in recent years than the outfit’s Miami Boat Show Poker Run to Key Largo. The 20-plus-year-old happening, which traditionally follows the five-day exhibition on Virginia Key, has dealt with everything from tricky dock space to a wholesale, hurricane damage-forced shutdown of the Upper Keys a few years ago.
The docks at Gilbert’s Tiki Bar and Resort will host a Florida Powerboat Club-produced boat show in early February. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
But when the National Marine Manufacturers Association announced it was scrubbing the 2021 Miami International Boat Show, Jones faced his biggest challenge to date—how to hinge an event on the nation’s largest boat show when the show itself is cancelled.
The answer is that the poker run, which is scheduled for February 18-21, will have a show of its own. Just as he does for his Key West Poker Run with its Poker Run Village, Jones is planning to produce a boat-and-products show at Gilbert’s Tiki Bar and Resort Key Largo, the event’s traditional lunch destination and host venue.
Gilbert’s has 28 waterfront rooms divided into upper and lower levels. Reserved for high-performance powerboat builders, each two-room structure has a dock—for a total of 14 docks—where the builder can display their latest models. The run’s new Key Largo Poker Run Village, which will include accessory displays, will be in the open space behind the resort venue.
Though the boat-show exhibit element is new for 2021, the Miami Boat Show Poker Run will retain all of its traditional features and activities.
“In a lot of ways, it’s going to be the opposite of the Miami Boat Show in that it’s going to be easy for manufacturers to participate,” Jones said. “The boat builders will have their own docks in front of their owns rooms, which I think most will use for hospitality areas and places for their staff to stay right on property. We have already plowed through a third of that room-and-dock inventory with exhibitors including Nor-Tech, Midnight Express, Mystic, Concept, Deep Impact and Blackwater 100-percent committed.
“Not that I am comparing our show to the Miami show, but exhibitors also will be paying one-tenth of the price to display as many as four new boats at each of the docks—right in front of their rooms,” he continued. “From their docks, they can be on plane on Blackwater Sound doing demos in seconds. Also, Mercury Racing is checking on the status of their mobile marketing rig and it very likely will be on site in the Poker Run Village. That’s a pretty big bonus.”
Jones emphasized that though the Key Largo Poker Run Village is new for 2021, the event itself will retain all of the activities such as casual day trips, lunch runs and raft-ups that have made it popular with attendees during the years. For participant lodging, the club has booked blocks of rooms at the Playa Largo Resort and—for those who prefer to go the three- to four-bedroom condominium route—the Mariner’s Club. For club members who want to stay closer to the show, the club has arranged for a rate at the Anchorage hotel across water from Gilbert’s and will have water-taxis on hand to shuttle attendees between venues. The Baker’s Key Resort also is an option for poker runners and their guests.
“The Miami Boat Show Poker Run event hasn’t changed—we’ll still have all the daily boating trips and such and we’ll still offer luxurious accommodations for our members,” Jones said. “As always, our members can come and go as they like, and they can enjoy the show on their own schedules. It’s going to be very casual and very easy for anyone to get to by water or by car. There’s no admission charge. I think it’s going to be a win-win for everyone.”
Each manufacturer will have its own dock to display as many as four boats.