Dedicated Toys Tour founder and driving force Rus Matos couldn’t be part of yesterday’s event in Palatka, Fla. Matos, a 59-year-old retired corrections officer, currently is in the hospital battling a serious long-term illness. His prognosis, according to several people who know him, is uncertain.
But that didn’t stop 30 to 40 high-performance powerboat owners and their guests from tackling the 82-mile roundtrip toy-drive run on the St. Johns River during one of the finest weather days—with temperatures in the low 70s and clear skies—in the event’s 19-year history.
The weekend-long happening, which began with a Friday lunch run, attracted a mix of new and familiar faces. On the new side, Spartan Powerboat Club founder Del Flores hauled his 39-foot Velocity sportboat all the way from New Jersey for the event. Familiar faces included six-time participant Chad Shutter of at Boat Repairs Plus & BRP Marine Custom in Denver, N.C., and T.J. Bailey, the South Carolina-based founder of Boatfreaks.org, a popular online go-fast boating community.
“Even though Rus is in the hospital, this run is kind of on autopilot now so it went really well,” said Bailey, who rode with his friend Tom Denofa in another 39-foot Velocity. “I think we had eight or 10 boats just from the Carolinas.
“There were some surprises,” he continued. “Bill Pyburn, Jr., ran his new 42-foot MTI center console on Saturday. And Bob Blanford, who also is out of Jacksonville (Fla.) like Bill ran the Pure Platinum II Skater 388 catamaran.”
Toys Tour first-timer Flores hauled his ride from the Garden State based on the recommendation of Velocity’s Scott McCormack. The Sanford, Fla., company is a Spartan Powerboat Club sponsor.
Check out the slideshow above for more images from the 2019 Toys Tour.
“I have become really good friends with Scott and he raved about this event—and I wanted to be supportive of a charitable cause,” said Flores. “The St. Johns River is beautiful and the people of Palatka are extremely kind.
“It was a fulfilling event,” he added. “I love to donate to charitable causes, especially when they involved children.”
For Shutter and others who participate each year, the event’s relatively small size and intimate atmosphere—plus the cause of gathering gifts for children in need—are its main attractions.
“As much as we all love doing the large poker runs and fun runs, it’s kind of nice to get away to a small town area where you can do some real boating,” he said. “We’ve got a great group of customers and friends who try to join us every year down there, which makes it fun.”