Last weekend’s Lake Cumberland Poker Run presented by State Dock in Kentucky proved once again that the success of any given poker run isn’t necessarily about acquiring cards at various stops on the water in the hope of bringing in a winning hand. With the better part of two days to collect their cards, participants in this year’s 160-plus-boat fleet of high-performance catamarans, V-bottom sportboats enjoyed the run itself at their own leisurely pace, often traveling to stops in small and sometimes brand-specific groups.
David Southern and company took in the sights at Harmon Creek from his beautiful Skater Powerboats 388 Pure Platinum catamaran during last weekend’s Lake Cumberland Poker Run. Photo courtesy/copyright Matt Wood/Speedonthewater.com.
According to participants ranging first-timer Jay Anthony Cooke from Toronto, Canada, to veteran Wayne Schaldenbrand of longtime event sponsor Sunsation Boats, there was no sense of urgency when it came to the run. But the Friday and Saturday night celebrations in the houseboat community at State Dock? And the expansive post-run, Saturday afternoon raft-up on Harmon Creek? No one wanted to miss a minute of those Lake Cumberland Poker Run traditions.
“Friday night on houseboat row was packed with people and a DJ and a full dance floor,” said Cooke, who traveled to the event and spent most of his time with a group of fellow Canadians, as well as folks from Michigan and Wisconsin. “On Saturday afternoon after we got our last card, we went to the Harmon Creek raft-up. There were literally hundreds of boats on the water. It took us an hour to tour through and see all the parties and, well, other entertainment. We’ll leave it at that as this is a PG article. On Saturday night, we’re back on houseboat row with the DJ and the dance floor party.”
Check out the slideshow above for more images from the 2017 Lake Cumberland Poker Run. Photos courtesy/copyright Matt Wood/Speedonthewater.com.
Also citing the need to keep his descriptions of the event in the “PG category,” Schaldenbrand, who was joined by fellow Sunsation company owners Jared Morris and Kyle Miller, said the Friday and Saturday night parties—Sunsation sponsored the audio visual displays throughout the weekend—and the Harmon Creek raft-up did not disappoint. In a team-building exercise, Sunsation actually brought a group of employees to the event for the first time, and according to Schaldenbrand they left wide-eyed and enthused.
“They kept shaking my hand and thanking us for making it happen,” he said. “Having them there built a lot of camaraderie with the team. Everyone had on red Sunsation jackets—with that and the Sunsation videos playing all the time on the screens around the docks, I’d say we ‘stole the show’ with our presence, which was what we wanted to do.”
Kentucky-based speedonthewater.com representative Loryn McAninch has participated in the event since its beginnings and was there again this year. “This is more of an event where everybody can get together and have a good time,” she said. “Having all the houseboats together on ‘party isle’ provides a good opportunity and showcase for the event sponsors and the industry—it’s a good all-in-one event. The highpoint for me was seeing all the powerful, strong hardware that came out this year. There was so much more than in the past, and it came from everywhere.”
Said McAnnich (left, pictured here with friend Wendy Hall), “This is more of an event where everybody can just get together and have a good time.”
While he didn’t make an official count, drone photographer Matt Wood, who’s captured the event for several years, said the Harmon Creek raft-up may have seen its biggest fleet to date. “I can’t speak for the exact number, but there were definitely more boats tied up there this year than last year,” he said.
Lake Cumberland is home-water to David Southern, who owns a Skater 388 Pure Platinum series catamaran powered by a pair of 1,350/1,550-hp turbocharged Chief engines, and he’s participated in the poker run since 2009. The change from a shotgun-style start to its current format following a fatal accident in 2013 has done nothing to dampen participant and spectator enthusiasm for the event, he said.
“It’s such a huge body of water and it’s really pretty—I think that’s what draws people in,” said Southern, who was joined by his wife, his son and his son’s fiancé and another couple from Nashville in his spectacular 38-footer. “And they come as much for the party as they do to see the boats.
“The highlight, for me, was Friday’s lunch run to Lees Ford Marina,” he added. “It’s a 25- to 30-mile run that basically follows the long portion of the old poker run, and my mechanic, Kevin Cundiff of MPH Motorsports, buys all the pizzas. We had a huge turnout this year. There must have been 60 or 70 boats.”