Big Deal in the Ozarks

Big Thunder Marine’s BFD Fun Run draws a crowd in Lake of the Ozarks

By Gregg Mansfield / Photos by Clint Cole Racing Photos 

The Baja, Fountain and Donzi boat brands have been around collectively for 150-plus years and have developed a large following over the decades. When Big Thunder Marine started the BFD Poker Run five years ago, the Lake of the Ozarks marine dealership wanted to recognize the legendary brands and its customers.

With 85 boats registered—and dozens more participating unofficially—for the BFD Fun Run in late July, it’s a reminder of how popular the brands remain.

The BFD Fun Run sponsored by Big Thunder Marine had lot of center-console boats participate.

“We just wanted to bring our Baja, Fountain and Donzi owners who have purchased from us or owners of the brands to show them that we appreciate them,” said Camryn Brumley of Big Thunder Marine.

Participants had 10 restaurants to choose from on the fun run.

The fun run was a mix of newer models and decades-old-built Baja and Fountain boats. The boat’s age didn’t matter as the participants just wanted to get out on the water.

Kirby Steins of Maryville, Mo., recently purchased a Donzi 41GT from Big Thunder Marine and said it was the first true poker run boat he’s ever owned. 

This Donzi boat had a full house for the fun run.

“We really didn’t have a good poker run boat until this year,” said Steins, who was one of 20-plus Donzi owners to attend the fun run. “The lake can get a little rough, so it takes a pretty good-sized boat to go down there and not get beat up too bad. We finally purchased the Donzi to be able to do (poker runs).”

Fountain Powerboats had the largest contingency of new and old boats.

The BFD Fun Run kicked off with a registration party Thursday night in the Big Thunder Marine Speed and Luxury showroom. Fun runners received a goodie bag that included a T-shirt, boat sticker, marine wireless charger, Donzi koozie, Baja floating keychain and a Fountain lanyard. A catered dinner was served among the new Fountain and Donzi boats in the showroom.

“It was a chance to hang out and catch up with other people,” Brumley said. “It was a great way to reconnect with our customers and say hi to them.”

After a catered breakfast at Camden on the Lake Resort on Friday morning, the boats left in flights of 10 boats about 10 minutes apart. The fun runners had 10 potential restaurant stops and could go to as few or many as they wanted. 

The Fountain center console was headed to the first restaurant for the day.

“It was really up to them where they wanted to go and how long they wanted to be there,” Brumley said. “We don’t want to make people go to a certain stop and stay there for a certain time. If they want to go to a restaurant that’s their favorite or if they want to go to a restaurant that they’ve never been to before, this is a fun day for them to go wherever they want with their friends.”

Brett Browning participated in his first BFD Fun Run with his nine friends and family in a Fountain 38SC. They went to Bear Bottom Resort, Franky and Louie’s, Coconuts at the Lake among other stops running with other Fountain center console owners.

The boats participating in the BFD Fun Run left in flights of 10 boats, 10 minutes apart.

“We’d pretty much grab a drink and an appetizer at each bar and stay for an hour or so and then keep rolling,” said Browning, who lives outside of St. Louis.

Brumley said one customer, who moved to Lake of the Ozarks two years ago, used the fun run to check out new waterfront restaurants and bars.

“Instead of just going to the same spots as he had always been to before, it was a great opportunity for him and his family to go to new locations,” Brumley said.

While most of the boats that entered were built in recent years, a few owners brought boats that were built in the early 1990s. “That was really cool to see the old Fountain, Donzi and Baja boats, and then the newer ones,” Browning said.Owner Fred Ross purchased Big Thunder Marine in 2015 and launched the event in 2018 to raise awareness and comradery about the Baja, Donzi and Fountain brands, which is built by Ross’ other company, Iconic Marine in North Carolina.

“I feel like once you buy a boat from Big Thunder, then you become like part of a big family,” Browning said. “They’re great people and they’re all good friends and everybody gets along well. We all hang out with those guys pretty much every weekend.” 

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