Editor’s note: A few weeks after this story was published, organizers had to move the event dates back a week to September 14-17. The dates were changed below to reflect that.
Poker run fans who always wanted to experience the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run, but gave it a hard pass because Georgia in July is less than comfortable, now have one less excuse to avoid it. This year’s event on Lake Lanier—about 45 minutes outside Atlanta—is scheduled for September 14-17.
Set for September this year, the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run is shaping up for another strong showing. Photos courtesy/copyright Hamilton Marine Finance.
The date pushback, however, is more of a nod to summer weekend boat-traffic and crowds than it is to Georgia’s typically sweltering July weather. With fewer people on the water, September offers a greater range of options including spending more leisurely time at Lanier’s Margaritaville location.
“Lanier Island has transitioned into an infamous Margaritaville Resort,” said Sheridan Bazemore, who became president of Lanier Partners of North Georgia, a nonprofit fundraising group, in January. “With Margaritaville being a resort and a waterpark in July, throwing a poker run in the middle of it all would just be too hectic.
“Bucky Perry is the vice president of operations of Margaritaville at Lanier Islands,” she continued. “When we voted in Bucky as a board member, as soon as he sat down for his first boarding meeting he said, ‘I’m all in and on board, but I don’t think the event in July is a good idea anymore.’ And we all agreed.”
The event’s already exceptional facilities are being expanded this year with extra dockage and more.
Adding Perry to the board, which includes vice-president/past-president Dan Jape and members Rob Davidson, Dan Gordon, Ronnie Gordon, Bruce Longmore, Freddy Fonzo and Brenda Musone, was a savvy and synergistic move as Margaritaville is a short stroll from Grand Hall Vendor Village the event’s longtime outdoor headquarters. Grand Hall and Margaritaville/Landshark Restaurant and Beach Bar will host almost all of the off-water activities including dinner—catered by food trucks from Margaritaville—and an extensive vendor village. Both are adjacent to Legacy Lodge, where most participants stay and dock their boats.
“For out-of-town boaters who want to make the 2023 Pirates of Lanier Poker Run a long weekend, we’ll be adding pre- and post-event parties,” Bazemore said. “We’re also adding an entire dock this year so we have more slips available, as well as VIP luxury docking options.”
A couple of dedicated performance-boat enthusiasts, Bazemore and her husband, Augie, have a few boats at the lake including a Skater Powerboats catamaran currently getting a new look at Upstate Powerboat in Port Byron, N.Y.
Bazemore said she’s wanted to revitalize the Pirates of the Lanier Poker Run in the go-fast boating world since an accident during the 2016 event claimed four lives and Atlanta-based board members John Woodruff and Beau Renfroe—a pair of well-known figures in the national high-performance-boating community—departed the following year.
There no shortage of high-performance on the famed Georgia waterway.
For a few years, the event saw a sharp decline in performance boat participation. But in 2022, the event quickly sold out all of its almost 200 slips and the go-fast catamaran, V-bottom and center console fleet increased. Bazemore, who is Renfroe’s sister, sees it as a trend, and one she’ll do everything in her power to encourage.
“We were all very excited last year with the turnout of (high-performance) powerboats and we’re going to keep it going,” she said. “We had a record-breaking vendor village and sold out of slips early. Last year, as soon as Thursday/Friday came around I was looking at all the boats rolling in and I was flabbergasted. And I thought, ‘This is going to be great. And it’s going to be even better next year.’”
Bazemore is quick to note that the six-card-stop, 2023 Pirates of Lanier Poker Run happens on the same weekend as the Lake Cumberland Poker Run in Kentucky. She is equally quick to point out that the dates will change next year and are already set for September 12-15, 2024, weekend.
“This year didn’t work out with all the weddings that had been pre-booked at Lanier islands,” she explained. “But 2024 is on and booked.”