For the past two months, Jacksonville River Rally and Poker Run organizers Greg Harris and Yvonne Aleman have been searching for a way to produce the May 13-16 event. But with both their lunch and dinner venues lost to renovations—and no suitable replacement sites available in the North Florida city—they announced today that they are cancelling the annual happening.
With the St. Johns River as its playground, the Jacksonville River Rally and Poker Run has been gaining momentum since it was resurrected by Greg Harris and Yvonne Aleman in 2016. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
“Our usual Saturday night dinner place has been torn to the ground and will be rebuilt,” said Harris. “Our Saturday lunch spot and marina is being upgraded, and though the owners is of the mindset that it will be ready he can’t guarantee it.
“There’s nothing in the city that can host 100 people properly socially distanced,” he continued. “There are hotels with the capacity, but their rules are so strict that they were discouraging groups of our size. Between those two venue issues, we lost our entire event day.”
Compounding the issue for Harris and Aleman, the Jacksonville event has grown steadily since they took it over six years ago. Based on previous participant commitments to return and would-be participants reaching out since they were forced to scrub the event in 2020, the couple was anticipating their biggest turnout to date.
To make it work, they needed more lunch and dinner capacity, not less. The prospect of turning away participants, many of whom Harris and Aleman know personally, was unacceptable to them.
“Emotionally, we couldn’t do that to people,” said Aleman. “We got as far as we could with optimism, but optimism isn’t going to carry us for the next three months.”
For both organizers, the biggest disappointment is not being able to directly raise money for Camp Amigo through the event. But they are encouraging former and future participants to donate to the organization, which serves children recovering from severe burn injuries.
In 2019, the event raised $18,295 for the charity, which was unable to host camp sessions in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions. Despite the cancellation of this year’s happening, Harris and Aleman are hoping donations will match or exceed that total.
Harris vowed that the event will return next year. “We are fully on board with taking the next 14 months to make it happen,” he said.
Harris and Aleman (above) are committed to bringing back the event in 2022.