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Rubbing Elbows At The Desert Storm Poker Run Street Party

Any doubts as to how well the new organizers would execute this week’s 25th annual Desert Storm Poker Run in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., were pretty much squelched thanks to a well-orchestrated opening day with charity rides and a welcome party on Wednesday followed by another off-the-charts street party on Thursday afternoon and evening.

As it has been the past two years, Thursday’s Desert Storm Poker Run Street Party was over the top and we have the images to prove it. Photos by Jeff Helmkamp copyright Helmkamp Photos.

With 80-plus-degree sunny weather and a remarkable number of exhibitors showcasing high-powered eye candy on both sides of Lake Havasu City’s famous McCulloch Boulevard for more than a mile, the street party was once again elbow-to-elbow for most of the afternoon and well past sundown as some sightseers lingered beyond the 9 p.m. end time. Between fresh-out-of-the-factory go-fast machines from DCB Performance Boats, Eliminator Boats, Nordic Boats, MTI, Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats, Sunsation Powerboats, Skater Powerboats and more, and the wide variety of custom land-based vehicles such as super haulers, exotic sportscars, sandrails, vans and tricked-out golf carts, the performance hardware lining the street was as impressive as it’s ever been at the event.

“We have been selling Bling Sauce products at the Desert Storm street party for the last 15 years and the event never ceases to amaze us,” said Patrick Jones, the president and CEO of the Phoenix-based Bling Sauce. “(The event) is a great place to connect with longtime loyal customers, interact with new customers and see our industry friends from around the country, all while enjoying the beautiful Arizona spring weather. We look forward to Desert Storm every year.”

The poker run’s new owners—Jim Russell, a locally based event producer with extensive experience, and Lake Havasu City business leader and real estate powerhouse Steve Ticknor—have been drawing praise from attendees and sponsors alike, including Cherilyn Noack of Teague Custom Marine, which has been involved with the event since it started out as the Heatwave Poker Run in 1999. Noack, who has attended the poker run since before she worked for the business her father, Bob Teague, started 50 years ago, said the attendance and lines to buy TCM apparel—or meet her dad—were steady from 1 p.m. on.

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Check out the slideshow above for more images from the street party.

“I feel like the street party was a big success in terms of the crowd, the weather and the variety of displays,” Noack said. “I always wish I could take more time to walk around and see the other displays. I did make it over to see Eliminator, a longtime Teague Custom Marine customer, and check out their boats. They had a lot of great apparel too. We had a few new items this year that were very well received like our new 50th anniversary collection. It seemed like all of our customers and friends that stopped by were happy to be at the lake. The street party is such a fun experience overall. It’s exhausting but fun.

“So far, I think the new organizers are doing great,” she continued, adding that the staging process for the street party went smoothly. “I worked with Steve Ticknor in advance of the Krusin’ for a Kause event and he was super helpful. Naturally people are a little nervous when there are new people in charge, but for us it’s been a hassle-free, pleasant experience working with them. I know Steve and Jim want to make changes here or there and that they have big goals to take Desert Storm to the next level, but it all takes time and there’s always going to be that learning curve.”

Noack applauded the team that organized Wednesday’s special needs kids rides at Windsor Beach as well as one of the event’s primary supporters—Anderson Powersports, which shared title sponsorship with Kicker Marine Audio and Shugrue’s Restaurant—for donating a substantial amount of neoprene lifejackets, in turn making it very easy to make sure everyone was vested up and ready for the ride.

For Desert Storm first-timer Jon Smiley, a marine industry veteran who recently joined CTS Custom Trailers of Muscatine, Iowa, the street party was even bigger and better than he had imagined. Smiley and CTS owner Jason Curry hauled the company’s new custom tilt trailer to the event, where they met MTI 390X owner Mark Rio, loaded his boat onto the new CTS offering and displayed it near the street party entrance on McCulloch Boulevard.

“It was absolutely next level,” Smiley said when asked about the Thursday happening. “I had nothing to compare it to other than the Shootout On The Strip display during the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, which is great. But this? Just incredible. I could not believe how many people were on the street last night. To be able to see it during the day and then feel it continue to build into the night—it was like the display had its own pulse. We closed a deal for a new goose-neck tilt trailer for a Skater 368 cat, and by the time we leave here I’m hopeful we’ll go home with half a dozen deals.”

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Photographer Jeff Helmkamp made sure to capture some of the friendly faces walking on McCulloch Boulevard.

Taylor Scism, the customer relations manager for Wentzville, Mo-based MTI, said that everything went according to plan on Thursday.

“It was a great street party,” Scism said. “We were happy to see a large turnout from open to close! We had our 50V (center console) and 440X (catamaran) on display. It’s the first time we’ve had our new 440X here at Lake Havasu and we’re really looking forward to everyone seeing it out on the water.”

Southern California performance boater Tank Sears, who owns a 35-foot Cigarette Racing Team V-bottom that was updated recently by the team at Barrett Custom Marine in Lake Havasu City, said Desert Storm is like a family reunion for the powerboat community.

“It’s always nice running into people you haven’t seen in a year or more and catching up with them,” Sears said. “Getting to see industry insiders such as Bob Teague, Brett Manire (of Performance Boat Center), Randy Scism (of MTI), Dave Johnson (of River Dave’s Place), the guys from DCB and all of the people with Mercury Racing, Ilmor, etc., is cool, too. For the most part, we hung out at the Barrett Custom Marine booth and people watched. The weather was perfect and it was busy the entire time.”

By all accounts the highest-attended portion of the 25th annual Desert Storm Poker Run was another home run, and it seems likely that Friday’s poker run and Saturday’s top-speed contest will follow suit.

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