Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Hartwell Lake Poker Run benefiting Meals on Wheels services in Anderson County returns to the South Carolina lake June 7 and 8.
More than 200 boats—from high-performance to center-consoles—are expected for the expanded poker run that now includes a Thursday night street party in downtown Anderson, S.C.
“We’re trying to show the hardware and expose ourselves outside of the limits of the lake, and also bring some tourism to our city downtown,” said Todd Campbell, committee chair for the Hartwell Lake Poker Run. “We want to show people what Anderson is about. We’re not just some little small town. We might talk kind of Southern but we’re good folks, good country people.”
Performance boaters are attracted to the lake because it doesn’t have a speed limit or a sound ordinance. The $85 entry fee ($100 for late entrants) is another reason for the large field, Campbell said. Entrants receive a T-shirt and poker hand.
“We try to keep (the price) where a blue-collar worker family man can come have a good time,” he said. “We feel like if we increased it to $150 to $200, it would cut a lot of our local people out and that’s what the organization is about is helping local families in Anderson County.”
The Thursday street party at the Palmetto Distillery was added this year so residents can see the boats up-close and promote tourism in the downtown area, said Laurie Ashley, executive director for Meals on Wheels in Anderson County.
“We’re kind of excited about bringing the local community more into (the poker run),” Ashley said. “(The street party) is open to anyone who wants to come by and see the boats.”
The Hartwell Lake Poker Run will have the same format as in years past with a Friday fun run and an evening kickoff party and live auction featuring live music. On Saturday, some of the poker run stops include Hartwell Marina, Big Water Marina, Western Carolina Sailing as well as private docks. Organizers will have separate starts for the slower and faster boats.
Instead of receiving a poker run card at each stop, participants receive a coupon that is exchanged for a raffle ticket. Organizers had to change the format because poker hands are illegal in South Carolina, Ashley said.
Meals on Wheels provides meals to people who are homebound, elderly or disabled and live alone or with another person that is disabled. The poker run is the largest fundraiser for the organization, which serves 400 people a day, Ashley said. The group has a waiting list of more than 200 people.
“Because we don’t have the funding to support everyone that needs the meals that makes this event even more needed,” Ashley said.
Organizers already have commitments from boaters as far away as California and New York as well as Oklahoma and Florida.
“We just tell folks to have a good time, that’s what it’s all about,” Campbell said. “And raise a little money for Meals on Wheels.”
For additional information on the Hartwell Lake Poker Run, visit hartwelllakepokerrun.com.