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Story and Photos by Steve Fennell
A power event unlike any other in the heart of one of the most popular boating regions north of the border.
Every year in early July, Hawkesbury, Clarence-Rockland and many sur- rounding communities in Eastern Ontario, Canada, buzz with excitement during the celebrations of the annual Ottawa River Festival. An annual spectacle to commemorate the beauty of the region, the festivities are also held in conjunction with the PRA Ottawa River Poker Run that attracts the who’s who of offshore performance boating, north and south of the border.
Held July 3 to 5, between our popular Alexandria Bay and 1000 Islands Poker Run events, the Ottawa River Poker Run is the perfect mid-summer power event that attracts 50-plus-foot monster cats, the slickest, power-driven 30-foot V-bottoms and everything in between. Add the area’s convenient services and excellent accommodations, and a weekend here means enjoying the best of all worlds – on and off the water.
The likes of James Dalling with his 32’ Sunsation; Maxime Lenoir and his 46’ Outerlimits, Marc and Micheline Gendron and their 42’ MTI; Brian and Wilma Ross and their stylish 38’ Donzi; Jean-Luc Sigouin and his 35’ Target; and many other players arrived in traditional fashion to start their performance-filled weekend.
Following registration at the Poker Runs America event trailer, a cocktail reception was held at the Déjà Vu restaurant Bar and Grill on Main St. to welcome the players and their crews. Déjà Vu, too, has been meeting our needs every year with its first rate menu, service and comfortable atmosphere. With an early start the next day, the players called it an early night to be in top form for the Saturday poker run.
With bright skies overhead, the event trail-er was once again open for business at Déjà Vu for last minute registration, as well as the serving of breakfast, just prior to the mandatory driver’s meeting.
After being dealt Card One at Déjà Vu, the group made their way to the Golden Anchor Marina for last minute preparations and idled out to the open water for the start of the run. With the film crew over head at 1000 feet, the 47’ Fountain pace boat throttled up, churned the water white, and it was “all systems go” as the group followed in unison to be dealt Card 2 in Chute-é-Blondeau. This is also where the players re-grouped for the second official start. It was then of a matter of blasting to the third card stop in Lefaivre, followed by a quick run to Du Moulin Park in Clarence-Rockland for the catered lunch.
Hundreds of spectators gathered along the shoreline to meet all the boats pulling into the slips at Clarence-Rockland’s water-front. Celebrations in the park were already in full swing, centered around a large sound stage featuring live performances, a Ford Mustang and Classic Car Show and many other activities for all ages.
For the poker runners, a catered lunch with a hot and cold menu of chicken, fish, salads, cool beverages to name a few items, provided the perfect break after a morning on the water. Following lunch, the players made their way back to the slips to get ready for the second leg of the run.
To add even more buzz to the action, event organizers once again staged a per-formance-filled drive-by as part of the sec-ond start. One by one, the group blasted at top speeds past Rockland in pursuit of Card Four at Petrie Island, at the entrance of Oziles Marina. It was then a matter of a blast to Wendover to be dealt Card Five, before returning to Hawkesbury for free wine tasting provided by Sandbanks Estates Winery, and the playing of the event’s Wild Card.
After mingling along the slips for the remainder of the afternoon, the players reconvened at Déjà Vu for cocktails, dinner and the highly anticipated unveiling of the cards. With special guest, the Honorable Jeanne Charlebois – the recently appointed Mayor of Hawkesbury – the winners were announced. In first, for the second time of 2015, was Patrick Higgins and his Team Go Fast running their 43’ Outerlimits. In second was David Caron-Tessier and his crew run-ning his 36’ Baja, while in third place were long-time players Brian and Wilma Ross with their 38’ Donzi.
Other highlights at the awards ceremony included the honouring of the Best Dressed Crew that went to Mario and Evelyne Garand with their matching shirts in their 44’ Nor-Tech, while Jean-Luc Sigouin (the winner of he 2014 poker run) won the most exotic engine compartment award with his 35’ Target. As a special incentive immediately following the poker run was the playing of a wild card, which was won by Stan and Inez Quinn, owners of a 32’ Sunsation.