AUGUST 2-4, 2002


Sacramento, the capitol of California, located at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers is also known as “The River City”.  Recognizing the boating opportunities provided by these rivers, surrounding Delta area and the many lakes the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau developed the Sacramento Bridge to Bridge Waterfront Festival to showcase this great recreational boating destination.  The River City Run poker run was an integral part of the Sacramento Bridge to Bridge Waterfront Festival kicking off the event with its run on Friday.  Unlike any other poker run or performance boating event this event was FREE to all participants.


Old Sacramento, a California gold rush era river front settlement area with its historic buildings, unique shopping, many restaurants and great entertainment provided the perfect location for the festival and poker run headquarters.  The public docks in Old Sacramento provided excellent berthing for the boats and close proximity to the host hotels of the Delta King and Embassy Suites.  The Delta King is a historic riverboat that has been converted into a unique hotel and entertainment facility and served as event headquarters.


Friday morning all poker run boats in Sacramento departed for Walnut Grove, about 25 miles south on the Sacramento River, to meet up with those heading up from San Francisco, Discovery Bay and other areas of the Delta Region.  With all boats together the run was on back to Sacramento for our grand entrance to the city kicking off the three day Festival.  Excitement was high with many testing their rev limiters in the smooth river water.  With the poker run boats being the feature attraction of the Festival Chris Ayres of Poker Runs West worked closely with city officials and the media timing the fleet’s arrival at the Old Sacramento docks for live television coverage at high noon.  With the NBC affiliate KCRA televisions helicopter and others overhead, interview media on the docks and a greeting by Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo poker runners were treated to a royal welcome.  Media coverage was intense throughout the weekend with interviews of participants and film of their boats shown on all newscasts.


The poker run continued throughout the day as participants hit the local waterways with stops at Crawdads, Sushi On The River, Delta King, Virgin Sturgeon and Rio City Café to pick up their cards.


Old Sacramento and the Sacramento Visitors and Convention Bureau kicked off the evening festivities with a cocktail party on the floating barge overlooking the river for all participants.  As everyone knows poker runs are not about winning money and this being a free event it was obvious that winning big money was not in the cards.  However spicing up things was LIFE’S A BET.COM providing a $500.00 prize for the best hand.  Not only traveling the farthest from Grand Junction, Colorado but winning the poker hand were “The X Muscle” team of Bud McMahon and Charlie Hamman.  Proving that poker runs are not about winning money Charlie and Bud put up their winnings sponsoring an open bar on the Delta King for all to enjoy.  What a class act by two class guys.  As the party wound down teams headed off to one of the many restaurants and watering holes in Old Sacramento.



The event name “Bridge to Bridge Waterfront Festival” references the fact that the center of activity is located between the Tower Bridge and the I Street Bridge with picturesque Old Sacramento between them. The weekend was filled with land activities featuring food, entertainment, vendors, marine displays and activities for the kids.  The center of attention was on the water though with racing jet skis, wake board demonstration, speed skiing, bare-footing drag boats and marine safety demonstrations.  Scott Pelleton and Mike Timby, representing Sanger boats, provided exciting water sports demonstrations throughout the weekend.


Poker runners and their boats were definitely the stars of the Festival as they participated in the “River City Shoot-out” radar runs.  With the river closed to all boat traffic for approximately 2 miles participants were afforded an opportunity to run with speed in a controlled safe condition. The Coast Guard and their auxiliary along with five local police and county sheriff agencies were joined by the specialized DART (Drowning Accident and Recovery Team) providing high level safety and security for the course. The river turns about 15 degrees a 1/3 of a mile past each bridge requiring everyone to line up carefully and consequently some boats never achieve their absolute maximum speed.  That fact is perfectly fine with most of the participants, as they understand that the concept for the event is to have fun and showoff their spectacular boats to the public and ultimate top speed was not a serious issue to most.  Many participants commented that they felt much safer going fast on the closed course with all of the safety patrols in place than during a poker run.  Life Jackets and kill switches were required but the relaxed atmosphere could be easily seen by the many boats with four or more people waving on their run to the 20,000 spectators who took in the event over the weekend.


Performance is a driving force with most poker runners as evidenced by the time and money put into their passion and the pride they take in their boat.  As the run groups proceeded on Saturday it became obvious who was shooting for speed and their personal best.  The wind Saturday played havoc with the course for the drag boats and some of the water sports demonstrations as well as holding down the speed of some shoot-out boats. 


Saturday evening the talk was of the windy weather, the fun of running the boats in front of a big crowd and some of the very respectable speeds turned in.  Old Sacramento’s restaurants, clubs, live entertainment and numerous attractions provided something for everyone throughout the evening.


Sunday morning dawned clear and calm setting the stage for some to go for their personal best on the radar gun.  To maintain the fun atmosphere of the event specific classes are not structured and everyone receives a plaque for their participation.  The event does recognize two special achievements though, that of fastest V-bottom and cat.


Charlie Herman and Bud McMahon didn’t drag their 33’ Powerplay “The X Muscle” all the way from Colorado to settle for any less than their best.  Holding the 2001 v-bottom record from Lake of the Ozarks their goal was to hold both titles simultaneously.  Fighting with mechanical gremlins on Saturday and making some changes to the boat they wondered if they had it all together for their final runs on Sunday.  The crowd on the Delta King knew they had worked some magic and roared their approval as “The X Muscle” screamed by at 114mph.  They had done it and now held the record for the River City Shoot-out as well as the Lake of the Ozarks.


Harold Cornelius in his 32’ Skater “Freedom” knew the course well being the 2001 event record holder for cats with a 141mph record run.  Saturday Harold made some easy passes giving friends rides in the 120mph range.  Sunday was a different story though.  Terry Laughlin, of Discovery Bay, California knows more about “Freedom” than anyone having been responsible for putting the custom package together for Harold.  With Terry in the cockpit now it was time to get serious and Harold and he did ripping off a series of crowd-pleasing runs with a best of 141.2mph.  The “Freedom” team had done it again taking home the top cat award.  Their name will again be engraved on the perpetual trophy kept on board the Delta King.


What a fantastic weekend it was, kicking of with the poker run Friday, all of the Bridge to Bridge Waterfront Festival activities and the poker runners boats featured in the “River City Shoot-out” radar runs.  Ed Ashton, the mayor of Old Sacramento and the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau were overjoyed with the publics enthusiastic response to the event and the poker runners safe demonstration of performance from their fantastic boats.


Combining a poker run with the only radar gun “Shoot-out” in the West and a water festival with parties and entertainment is a big winner and it being free to all participants

made it in the eyes of many the best event in the West.  With the 2003 event set for July 18-20 interested participants should contact Chris Ayres at Poker Runs West 916-652-7022 for specific event information.