The Tickfaw 200 in Louisiana is back after a three-year hiatus.
By Gregg Mansfield
Photos by Guice Mercer and Gregg Mansfield
The Tickfaw 200 poker run deep in the Louisiana bayous has been one of the biggest performance-boating events in the country for nearly 20 years, but the event at Livingston Parish’s Blood River Landing has had a string of bad luck.
A major hurricane and the pandemic kept the popular poker run on ice since 2019, and the marina’s new owners recognized the event is good for the local economy and a source of pride for the parishes.
“As soon as we found out that the program wouldn’t happen again, we tried to figure out a way to get it back up and going because it helps the community out a lot,” said Greg Alack, who bought the marina with his brother, Glen, and business partners Charles Rogers and Ronnie Duncan. “It really drives a lot of commerce through the southern area, so we wanted to get it up and going for the sake of the community.”
Situated about an hour north of New Orleans, Livingston Parish is unspoiled by development and has over 400 miles of navigable waterways—more than Venice, Italy. The Amite and Tickfaw rivers make up Livingston Parish, creating a winding waterway heavily wooded with cypress trees. The river and tributaries are about 15 to 20 feet deep, and shallow areas are clearly markedThe Cajun spirit is reflected in the region with its eclectic mix of restaurants and bars on the water, which are typically open March through September.
“The people are friendly and generous, and you’ll always experience Southern hospitality in this area,” said Kathleen Abels, marketing manager for the Livingston Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Blood River Landing is a private marina but is open to the public once a year for the Tickfaw 200 poker run. The centerpiece is the “Fun House,” a bar and concert stage that reflects the eclectic nature of the region. Charles Albert, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2009, furnished the Fun House with signs and marine-related items such as crab pots and buoys hanging from the rafters. Albert constructed the Fun House and a few of the buildings on the marina property using scrap wood and materials from the area.
The poker run is reflective of Albert’s spirit where the participants can choose their own adventure. Organizers had 12 stops and poker runners could pick their spots during the three-day event. Boaters could run potentially 200 miles if they visited all the stops, but the intermittent rain kept many of the participants closer to base.
Greg and Jennifer Connell, owners of Legend Marine Group, had a large group of friends and customers on their Nor-Tech center console. Winding through the river, Greg knows the area well with a first stop at Prop Stop on the Tickfaw River and then Sun Buns in Manchac. Both bars are only accessible by boat
The slushy drinks were flowing at Sun Buns as the humidity took hold between rain showers. Performance center consoles from MTI, Statement Marine and Nor-Tech were interspersed with older sport boats including Fountains and Wellcrafts at the docks. Nearby people tossed scraps of food to a small alligator that lives under the Sun Buns docks.
Legend Marine Group is one of the original sponsors of the Tickfaw 200 and Greg affectionately calls it a “down home, hillbilly party.”
“What drew us here was the local people and the charities they were doing it for,” Connell said. “The next year everybody started talking about it and a few more came. Now we (Legend Marine) probably have at least 60 people here.”
When Albert started the Tickfaw 200 in 1996, it was important for Albert to spread the wealth throughout the parishes, said Ladd Spring, a close friend of Albert who nicknamed him “Crazy Charlie.” Another goal was to get the boating season started earlier, Spring said
“What I think makes it so special is the people from south Louisiana, the way we cook, the way we accept other people, the way we drink beer and have a good time,” Spring said. “Then you factor in boats and people love boats and enjoy the sport. It just kind of multiplies from there.
In the evening, the Fun House at Blood River Landing was the party spot for the Tickfaw 200. Organizers had bands playing Thursday through Saturday night and the drinks were flowing for the poker runners and locals who joined the party. Money raised from poker hands, sponsorships and entry fees went to Livingston Parish Marine Division and Springfield High School
Joe Thomas, CEO of Tangipahoa Parish government, said not hosting the poker run for three years had an impact on the community. He credits the group for stepping up and buying the Blood River Landing so the poker run could continue.
“It was a huge void in the community here,” Thomas said. “Not only were we dealing with coming out of COVID but also dealing with Hurricane Ida, which was really devastating to our area, so it was huge getting this back going and we can’t thank those guys enough for all they did.”
Livingston Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Abels said the event during its peak generated between $1 million and $1.5 million annually for the community. While this year’s take will be smaller, Abels said it’s still a significant economic boost for the area.
“All the events here since Hurricane Ida have skyrocketed—people were ready to get out,” said Abels, who was mayor of a nearby town when the Category 5 hurricane hit in 2021. “You had Covid and then the hurricane. Those were bad words you didn’t speak around here.”
Alack said while they are considering additional events, they were happy to organize a successful Tikfaw 200 in less than 10 months.
“It’s been a big learning curve, but we’ve got a lot of notes to make things even better next year,” Alack said. “We’re back and excited for the future.”