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Toys Tour Celebrates 20 Years With Plans To Honor Late Event Founder

This year’s Toys Tour in Palatka, Fla., is expected to be a special one. Not only is the run that supports local area children in need during the holidays going to be celebrating its 20th anniversary when participants gather from December 4-5 to boat up and down the St. Johns River, it will be held in memory of its founder Rus Matos, who died in December 2019 about a week after last year’s Toys Tour.

The annual Toys Tour along the St. Johns River features boats of all shapes and sizes full of toys for local children in need. Photos by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix

Now named the Rus Matos Toys Tour to honor the man who dedicated his life to helping local children during the holidays, this year’s run is expected to be slightly more formal with the leadership team at Velocity Powerboats stepping up with Matos’s son. Louie, to organize the gathering hosted at Crystal Cove Riverfront Resort in support of the excellent cause of helping underprivileged children during the holidays.

”This year we expect hundreds of boats to rip down the St. John’s River with their boats loaded up with toys for this worthy cause” said Walt Braithwaite, Velocity’s vice president of sales and marketing. “If you never experienced this family friendly event, you need to check it out. Not only are you doing a good thing by helping local under privileged children; it is also an event full of fun, great food, entertainment, and incredible sites and stops off the St. Johns River that you and your family will never forget.”

Braithwaite said the excitement starts on Friday with the event’s traditional fun run at noon followed by an evening kick-off party and Show and Shine event where participants will get to decorate their boats competing for awards such as Best of Show, Best Crew and more. There also are going to be food trucks, a cash bar and entertainment, including some of the new Velocity Powerboats.

In 2019, Spartan Powerboat Club founder Del Flores attended the Toys Tour in his 39-foot Velocity performance boat.

On Saturday, a drivers meeting about how the day will unfold starts at 9 a.m. and boaters will head out around 11 a.m. to the designated toy drop at Weltka City Dock. From there, a BBQ lunch at Renegades is being sponsored by Mystic Powerboats before boaters are invited to meet up for the late afternoon Silver Glenn Cove Party. A post-run banquet, which also is sponsored by Velocity Powerboats, starts at 8 p.m. at Crystal Cove Marina.

“Rumor has it that we will have a special guest all the way from the North Pole joining us on this epic run,” Braithwaite said. “Santa says he can’t wait to get behind the wheel of that new 290SC powered by twin 400Rs. He says he is leaving the reindeer at home this time!”

Braithwaite added that hotels are filling up fast so interested boaters should book a room soon and get their event tickets for the lunch and banquet here.

He said the event is free for anyone looking to donate toys and make the run, but there is a ticket required per person for the scheduled catered lunch and banquet. The cost is $25 per adult and $15 for children under 12 and includes food and fun for the whole family.

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