What started out a few years ago as an easy, lazy, late season weekend morphed into the first Tri-State River Rats’ Norris Lake Jamboree and Poker Run, held over September 8th-through-11th. It keeps happening in our club; the small rides turn into big events, suddenly and without warning.
Back when it was cold, and we were thinking about what to do the summer, we planned the weekend-after-Labor Day at Norris Lake, as usual. “We had a few more people asking about this ride after last year, so I knew we would have more attendance,” said Steve Kresko, River Rats President. “I knew it was Cumberland poker run weekend too, and I thought about a PWC poker run, and what it would take to pull off.”
So began the organizing; phone calls made, invitations sent, prizes begged for. “We really didn’t know how it would turn out, but the momentum was building, so we kept doing more,” Kresko said.
Four PWC clubs: Middle Tennessee PWC, Nashville PWC, Northeast PWC, plus the River Rats and some additional independent riders joined in the fun. Casual rides on Friday and Sunday bookended Saturday’s Poker Run.
The event was headquartered at the beautiful Shanghai Resort on Norris Lake in La Follette, TN. We took advantage of the resort’s motel, cabin, marina, restaurant, and fuel docks to handle the crowd of about 40 people. “I can’t thank the folks at Shanghai enough for their hospitality and professionalism,” Kresko said. “We all but took over the whole place for the weekend. They welcomed us, and went far beyond expectations. I think it was one of the key things that made the weekend great.
“We also had an incredible group of PWC riders and families here with us. People are always what make these events truly memorable,” he added.
The prizes didn’t suck either. Grand prize, a GPS system, was won with a jack-high-straight. In addition to the Poker Run, there was a raffle for other prizes; including a PWC stereo from Car Stuff of Louisville, free winterization from Tyler’s Personal Watercraft Service, an ECU tune from Torx Racing, several pairs of flip-flops and water shoes from Whitman Hollow Marina. Assorted T-shirts, ski wax, and sunglasses completed the raffle prize offerings.
How often does everything go right? Cerulean blue skies all weekend allowed us to ride all day and deep into late sunset, showing those new to the lake all the best places. New friends, and others who haven’t seen each other for a while, had time to catch up. The poker run itself went smoothly. All the riders courteous and considerate of others on the lake, showing our sport at its very best, as 40 skis coming at you can be a bit intimidating.
We purposely set up the poker run so that it couldn’t be a race, no benefit to arriving first at any of the stops, so everyone could enjoy the ride. Ken Meadors acted as the dealer, keeping track of everyone, and tallying the hands at the end, with other River Rats leading and watching out for the riders, to make sure everyone was safe and happy.
“I keep saying ‘thank you’ to people,” Kresko said. “But I can’t forget the marinas involved: Flat Hollow, Stardust, Whitman Hollow, Twin Cove and, of course, Shanghai. Everything came together at the right time, in the best place, with awesome friends. It doesn’t get better.”
Find the Tri State River Rats, Northeast PWC, Middle TN PWC, and Nashville PWC clubs on Facebook. Join these groups, all of which host regular rides throughout the year. Next year’s Poker Run will be the same time, the weekend after Labor Day.