RELEASE — On Saturday, August 29, Gananoque and the 1000 Islands witnessed a Poker Run event unlike any to date. Hosted by Power Boating Canada Magazine and its American publication Poker Runs America, the weekend contended with rain, wind, and special preparations necessitated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Participants from across Ontario and Québec arrived Friday afternoon, with Québec teams taking home first and third by weekend’s finale. Due to COVID-19, American boats did not attend. They have historically comprised up to sixty percent of Poker Run competitors.
The Poker Run itself is a unique spectacle in the boating world. One of Canada’s largest waterfront extravaganzas, each outing draws fans regardless of the weekend. Teams arrive at the marina to show off their respective glitz before setting out in majestic formation across the water. The Poker Run is not a race: at each checkpoint stop, participants draw a sealed envelope containing a randomized poker card. Upon return, the team with the best hand wins. Speed has no bearing on the result; victory is all in the cards.
Gananoque’s 2020 run was no different. Boats lined themselves at Joel Stone Park amid the fog of an 11:00 AM morning. 1000 Islands’ Bill Tomlinson – captain of the 50-foot, MTI Turbine-powered My Way – lit up the darkness and cut through the haze with his impressive aircraft engines. Tomlinson had already received accolades two years prior when Power Boating Canada named his craft fastest boat in the islands for a remarkable 200-plus miles an hour. The run on, teams travelled to Ivy Lea’s Village Quay Marina to select their first envelope.
From there, participants turned southwest to Wolfe Island’s historic General Wolfe Inn. Waterfront staff served a sumptuous lunch and welcomed each team in turn. A trip through the Canadian Channel to Brockville, back to Rockport, and finally to Gananoque again for the day’s final card rounded out the run.
While avid boating fans flocked to each site, this year’s event required reduced numbers to help maintain safety measures. A normal Poker Run boasts 35,000 spectators, snapping photos and videos of each sleek craft that flies past, enroute between Kingston and Prescott. Reduced numbers, however, did not affect this weekend’s popularity.
Part of that popularity stems from the magazines’ longevity in the communities. This was the 35th annual 1000 Islands Poker Run not including an additional 15 years on the American side. Such a feat is the world’s longest, most consecutive Poker Run anywhere in the world.
“There’s been no run with a hiccup or missing a year because we’ve kept our safety measures in place,” Bill Taylor, President of Poker Runs Inc. US and Canada, said of the event. In a year such as 2020, those safety measures became even more critical. Poker Runs America cancelled all its 2020 Canadian and American events in response to the COVID shutdown. The 1000 Islands – the site of the original run – has been the exception in order to keep tradition alive.
Top photo: From left to right: Don Mills of Gananoque, with over 30 years’ experience orchestrating the local runs; Martin Beaudoin, first-time Poker Runner and winner; and Bill Taylor, President of Poker Runs Inc. US and Canada. Photo by Staff Reporter Paul Wright.
Power Boating Canada and Poker Runs America would like to thank the host town of Gananoque, the 1000 Islands Chamber of Commerce, Thousand Islands Accommodation Partners, Ontario Provincial Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Gananoque Police, Leeds and 1000 Islands Fire Service, and the many volunteers who made last weekend possible. Power Boating Canada and Poker Runs America also congratulate their winners from the weekend. All finalists received prizes and cash for their victories.
Pierre Junia Poquin, Québec
Poker Hand: 8833A
Brian Hegadorn, Ontario
Poker Hand: QQ669
Martin Beaudoin, Québec
Poker Hand: AA776
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