Unless next month’s Florida Powerboat club poker run to Key West, Fla., attracts 214 boats—and with 180-plus vessels already registered it just might—it will not the be the largest organized go-fast boating event of the year. That’s because the eighth annual Oneida Lake Fall Chicken Wing Run last month in Central New York pulled in a 213-boat fleet in front of thousands of spectators.
By any measure, that’s a remarkable achievement. That it happens after Labor Day in the Northeast makes it even more so.
“When we started in 2011, we had 11 boats,” said Ron Forbus, who organizes the event with his wife, Jeanette, and a dozen other volunteers.
Named for its primary lunch fare—this year the participants demolished 6,400 chicken wings—the event raises money for the Sylvan Beach Fire and Rescue Water Division. Though the final number hasn’t been released, Forbus said the group raised more $10,000 for the cause. Past events have enabled the organizers to donate foam sprayers for fireboats, FLIR radar and sonar systems and more.
“We are waiting to announce the exact final number because we are working on a special gift as well,” he said. ‘We are 100-percent nonprofit, and every year we donate 100 percent of all proceeds to our cause. Our goal next year is $15,000.
“The run has gained popularity because of its value and great venue,” he continued. “For $75 you get a participation boat sticker, an event T-shirt or tank , a gift (this year is was a CWR cup) and all you can eat lunch and a buffet dinner. We also sell towels, hats, funny novelty sweatshirts, and other items with our logo to help raise money.”
But the Oneida Lake Fall Chicken Wing Run’s neatest trick is bringing dollars into the local community at a time when tourism evaporates. Oneida Lake and its shoreline vacation community of Sylvan beach are as quiet in the fall and winter as they are bustling in the summer.
“Normally this area would be a ghost town after Labor Day,” said Forbus.”We sell out all the hotels and rental homes in the area, and for many businesses it’s their largest revenue weekend of the year. It has become a ‘Black Friday’ for businesses here and a huge contributor to a local cause.”