Almost 50 boats participated in yesterday's Brad Smith Memorial Poker Run. All photos courtesy/copyright Jeff Milliken.
Less than a year ago, engine builder Brad Smith died along with his friend and customer, Jeffrey Asbell, in a high-speed boating accident during a poker run on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky. During his relatively short life Smith, who was 39 years old when he died, built a devoted customer base of high-performance catamaran and V-bottom owners, particularly in the Midwest.
More than a few of those Smith-engine-powered boats—roughly half by one estimate—comprised the 48-boat fleet during yesterday's Brad Smith Memorial Poker Run, which was organized by Ugly John's At Thunder Bay Marina on Grand Lake in Ketchum, Okla. While the final numbers are not in, the event, which included silent and live auctions the night before the run, raised between $20,000 and $30,000 for a trust fund earmarked for Smith's three children.
"It was spectacular—the support was just crazy," said Brian Smith, Smith's brother, who came to the event with his mother and Smith's widow, Krissy. "And it was a little overwhelming. Mom was fairly emotional all day yesterday. She rode with (Smith Power customer) Ryan Branch. The money raised was phenomenal. You can't believe the commitment and generosity of the boating community.
"When they did the live auction Friday night, people were just throwing money around," he added. "There was this really big Skater sign that went for $3,700, and they started the bidding at $100."
Friday night's slient and live auctions raised more than $20,000 for Smith children's trust fund.
Before the poker run began yesterday morning, the participants started with a "moment of loudness" when they fired up their boats' engines at the docks.
"That was impressive," said Autumn Terry, who participated in the event with her husband, Josh. "And it wasn't just the 48 boats in the poker run that came out. There were hundreds of boats on the water."
Participants with Smith Power engines were asked to tie yellow ribbons on their boats in honor of the man who built their powerplants. Among those sporting yellow ribbons on their vessels was Travis Reed, a longtime Smith Power customer and one of the late engine builder's closest friends.
Said longtime Smith Power customer Travis Reed: "The slips were full and the parking lot was full of cars."
"The turnout was bigger than what I thought it would be for a first-time event," said Reed. "I don't know how many people were there, but all the slips were full and the parking lot was full of cars. And there were quite a few boats with yellow ribbons.
"Brad had a really good following," he added. "It was really going his way."