T.J. Bailey, a longtime performance-boat enthusiast and owner who lives in South Carolina, has enjoyed “at least 15” Rus Matos Toy Tours, an annual on-water toy drive and powerboat rally in Palatka, Fla. Bailey, the founder and owner of the popular boatfreaks.org online community, has watched it grow. And grow it has—with 95 boats in yesterday’s fleet, this weekend’s Toys Tour delivered the best turnout since the event was founded 21 years ago by Matos, an exuberant go-fast boating fan who died in late 2019.
This weekend’s Rus Matos Toys Tour attracted 95 boats and hundreds of participants—and collected hundreds of holiday gifts for children in need. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Better still, with hundreds of powerboat lovers participating the Velocity Powerboats-backed event brought in hundreds of gifts for children who would otherwise go without this holiday season.
The happening was organized by Velocity’s Scott McCormick and Matos’ son, Louie.
“Rus would be thrilled,” said Bailey. “We have about 16 boats here just from the Carolinas. “Doug Meredith brought his 353 Formula and I rode with him and Mike and Mark Ledford.”
Though the festivities started Friday with an informal fun run on the St. Johns River, Saturday’s main event began with the traditional toy drop-off at Welka City Dock before moving on to Renegades waterfront restaurant for lunch. From there, the fleet headed to Silver Glen Springs before returning to the event’s Crystal Coast Marina host venue in Palatka for a dinner celebration.
Check out the slideshow above to enjoy more images from the 2020 Rus Matos Toys Tour.
In years past, Toy Tours events have had to endure chilly weather. But while cool by Florida standards, Friday’s fun run participants saw 70-degree temperatures. Yesterday’s midday temperatures were in the high 60s.
“It wasn’t South Florida, but it was a whole lot better than the weather in the Carolinas is right now,” said Bailey.
Spartan Powerboat Club founder Del Flores traveled all the way from New Jersey to participate in the weekend happening in his 39-foot Velocity V-bottom.
“This event is like no other,” said Flores. “ It’s not a poker run and it’s not a race, of course—it’s literally an event dedicated to providing children with gifts who don’t have any or aren’t getting any for Christmas,” said Flores. “Rus Matos would be proud.”
For the Spartan Powerboat Club’s Del Flores, the Rus Matos Toys Tour is a must-attend event.