A Florida biker magazine will host a motorycle Poker Run from the mainland to Key West on Sept. 16 as a way to pay tribute to the late Phil Peterson and his long-running event that was scrapped this year.
“We decided to keep it alive for them so they could work on it for next year,” said Paul Cianci, events manager for Full Throttle magazine. “This is a legacy.”
Full Throttle’s one-day Poker Run will start with registration from 10 a.m. to noon at K & G Cycles of Florida City and after five stops in the Keys, end at the Tattoos and Scars bar in Key West, with participants paying $15 per hand of poker. Players pick up a playing card at each stop.
The last bike must ride in by 6 p.m. Sept. 16 and awards will be handed out at 7 p.m. at the bar.
What would have been the 45th annual Poker Run sponsored by Peterson’s Harley-Davidson in Miami is now a scaled-down event without a street fair or any road closures. Drew Peterson cancelled the event July 20, blaming a lack of local support and volunteers.
Cianci said Full Throttle encourages bikers to park in metered spaces, parking lots or at their hotels that Saturday night and leave the riding for Sunday.
Full Throttle in June sponsored a Poker Run from Dunedin to St. Augustine, a 367-mile trek.
Typically, for a big event in Key West, a nonprofit partners with an organizer like Peterson and helps with the event that includes street closures. The Poker Run draws some 10,000 motorcyclists.
The Key West Sunrise Rotary last fall dropped its sponsorship of the event and a brawl at the Rumor Lounge downtown left some city leaders wary of allowing the event to continue.
Drew Peterson said he couldn’t find another nonprofit to partner with but that proceeds will benefit diabetes research. He told the City Commission that even if he cancels the Poker Run, he can’t stop people from coming to Key West expecting a motorcycle-themed week.
At their June 20 meeting, city commissioners debated whether to grant the Poker Run a permit but after City Manager Jim Scholl stepped in with a recommendation to approve, they fell into line.
Only commissioners Jimmy Weekley and Sam Kaufman dissented in the 5-2 vote. “This is an event that attracts motorcycle gangs,” Kaufman said.
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen