For the longstanding club members of the Lake Erie Offshore Performance Association, this year’s Thunderfest poker run to Put-in-Bay, Ohio, that takes place Saturday, August 5, is expected to be a special one. Not only is the club returning to the popular island on Lake Erie, the event sold out in three days with 75 registered boats and is going to raise money for a charity that several members are connected with personally.

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The LEOPA Thunderfest is headed to Ohio's Put-in-Bay in a few weeks. Photo courtesy Put-in-Bay Visitors & Convention Bureau

According to Dave Powell, a founding member, past commodore and current chairman of the board, it’s been several years since LEOPA, which was founded in 1989, organized a full-scale event to Put-In-Bay.

“Based on past experience we knew that poker runs to Put-in-Bay generally attract some nice hardware and this year will be no different,” said Powell, who owns a rare 39-foot Aronow catamaran powered by twin 900-hp engines. “Because it’s such a popular destination, the location draws more interest and gives us the potential to attract new members once they see what the club is all about.

“As usual we also have a charitable side to Thunderfest,” he continued. “We try to find a different worthwhile charity almost every year and this time around we’ve selected the Autistic Children of American. We have some members with personal ties to the organization so we’ve decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to ACA.”

Of course anyone interested in attending the run won’t be able to sign up with their boats but they can still come out to the lake according to Nikole Gilstorf, LEOPA’s treasurer, and check out the boats at one of the stops, which include the Bilge Bar at Anchor Point in Curtis, Lyman Harbor in Sandusky and Rustic Oar in Huron, or at Put-in-Bay.

Gilstorf, whose husband Joe is LEOPA’s current commodore, said the Saturday festivities taking place at Niagara Events Center in Put-in-Bay are going to be open to anyone who wants to join the group for the dinner and fundraiser. She also said there’s a VIP Party sponsored by American Custom Marine set for Friday at TJ's Smokehouse.

Editor's note: Pete Boden, speedonthewater.com's chief photographer, is going to be on hand to capture the Thunderfest action. For more details on the event, check out leopa.com.