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Nov. 18, 2017
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Barkley Geib - ‘grandfather’ of Lanier’s poker runs

By Pamela A. Keene 
 
Lake Lanier’s Barkley Geib could be called the “grandfather of the poker run.” After all, for 10 years he ran the nation’s largest Poker Run at Lanier Harbor Marina (from 1994-2003), consistently bringing more than 300 boats to Lake Lanier for a weekend in August and raising money for charity. And now he’s logged nearly 20 years of organizing on-the-water charity events, including his work with the Pirates of Lanier Family Poker Run, which just completed its eighth year.
 
For years, he toured with the Offshore Power Boat Association and supported a number of charities through the family’s McKinney Geib Foundation, which he manages. For the 10 years of the Poker Run, the organization has donated more than $2 million to support children’s charities including The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier, Kids in Distress and the Boy Scouts of America. The foundation has also supported lake causes, including the Lake Lanier Association.
 
When Lanier Partners decided to create its Pirates of Lanier Family Poker Run in 2010, one of the group’s founding members the late Rea Williams approached Geib about advising them to create a successful event.
 
“Rea was instrumental in getting me involved and I was always amazed at his organizational skills that made the Lanier Partners event run smoothly,” Geib said. “After that first year, he convinced me to become part of the board, which I gladly accepted.” Today, he’s president of the board and unofficially known as “the Grandfather of Poker Runs” on Lake Lanier because of his nearly 20 years of experience. 
 
So why does Geib like to be involved in Poker Runs? “I just love all the organizational work, but the social aspects are a great way to bring people together,” he said. “It’s a time to have fun on the water and support an excellent cause – raising money for children’s charities.”
 
Geib brought many lessons learned to Lanier Partners, suggesting that the event be more about fun than being a timed competition. “When we did the Poker Runs at Lanier Harbor, organizing it was very complex,” he said. “We had three different courses, because we had three speed classes of boats, and participants were divided into groups with half of them doing the timed course clockwise around the lake and the other half doing the course counterclockwise. I included trivia questions, which we can’t do now because people can Google the answers on their cellphones.”
 
For the Pirates of Lanier Family Poker Run, rules were adapted for family fun and a less competitive atmosphere, because the timing element was eliminated. “Over the years, we’ve refined it even more by allowing boats to start from wherever they want and complete the course at their own pace,” he said. “Our ancillary events are family-focused and we use many more volunteers for the Pirates event than I did when in the Lanier Harbor days.” 
 
Geib said that planning has been streamlined as well. “We have a whole board of directors and many reliable volunteers who each do their part in planning and implementation,” he said. “Their involvement is invaluable. When I did the Lanier Harbor event, it was pretty much just me until the weekend of the event. That’s when the volunteers would come out.”
 
To produce the Pirates of Lanier Family Poker Run, it’s all hands on deck. In fact, in the weeks following each year’s event, board members and volunteers are already looking ahead to the next year. “ ‘What can be done better? What can we do differently? What would our participants and volunteers like to see for next year?’ ” Geib said.
 
“And in the middle of all that early planning for next year, we’re also putting together our annual Christmas Parade of Lights, so we certainly are staying busy. Our board members are committed to the cause. Many of them own companies and work full time, but they’re always right there when things need to be done. I’m just amazed at the good work they each do.” 
 
This month, registration for the Christmas Parade of Lights will go live online. Scheduled for December 9, it will attract houseboats, cruisers, pontoon boats and other types of vessels that will be decorated for the holiday season.
 
“Each year the Christmas Parade of Lights has more participants and that allows us to raise even more money for the children’s charities we support,” he said. “Please let people know that they need to start planning now and get together with their marina dock mates and boating friends to make this a spectacular year.” 
 
The dates for the 2018 Pirates of Lanier Family Poker Run have been set as July 19-21. For more information about events sponsored by Lanier Partners and to register for the Christmas Parade of Lights, visit www.piratesoflanier.com.

Posted online 8/30/17
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