Flying aces: Aviator's poker run planned in lakes area

A group of aviation enthusiasts who've organized a first-ever flying poker run out of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Saturday are hoping it's a royal flush.

A group of aviation enthusiasts who've organized a first-ever flying poker run out of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Saturday are hoping it's a royal flush.

The "Grass is a Gas" Aviator's Poker Run invites pilots of small airplanes and helicopters to fly to four grass strips at area airports Saturday, building a poker hand as they go. The aviators will return to the Brainerd airport to open sealed envelopes and reveal their poker hands.

Mike Petersen, an organizer of the event, said they were inspired to create the poker run in the image of those run by motorcycle and snowmobile clubs. The focus on grass strips is a hat tip to the true aviation enthusiasts, Petersen said.

"We love grass strips," Petersen said. "It's kind of a backcountry bush flying sort of thing, that guys just like using the grass. It's softer, it's easier on tires, it's more fun because you never quite know whether you're going to hit a rut."

Petersen said with no pre-registration, he's unsure how many fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft will participate, but he's hoping for 30 to 50 pilots and said the event is equipped to handle more.


The event is free to participants and spectators alike and registration begins at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Brainerd airport. After a pre-flight safety briefing, participants will begin takeoff to travel in any order to the Hill City-Quadna Mountain Airport, the Backus Municipal Airport, Morey's Airport in Motley and the East Gull Lake Airport before returning to Brainerd. Pilots will travel a course of about 145 miles.

Petersen said the best times for spectators to watch the planes in Brainerd would be between 9 and 10 a.m. for takeoff, and between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. for landings. Although the poker run itself is open only to those taking flight, Petersen added spectators are welcome to travel to the various airports.

Those who return by 1 p.m. with the best poker hands will win prizes including a $100 fuel certificate courtesy of NorthPoint Aviation, a $100 gift card for Madden's on Gull Lake and one night of lodging and four water park passes at Arrowwood Lodge at Brainerd Lakes. Participants can also win door prizes drawn at random.

Petersen said hot dogs and brats will be available at lunchtime, sold by the Crow Wing Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, and Wings Cafe inside the airport will be open as well.

The forecast for Saturday looks promising, Petersen said, although it might become hot midday. In the case of rain, however, the event will take place Sunday instead.

Those seeking additional information on the poker run event may contact Petersen at 612-750-2981.

If you go

"Grass is a Gas" Aviator's Poker Run


8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday

Beginning at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport and continuing at the Hill City, Backus, Motley and East Gull Lake airports before ending back in Brainerd. Aviators will collect a playing card in a sealed envelope at each location and reveal their poker hands at the end of the run.

To fly: Registration begins at 8 a.m.; pre-flight safety briefing at 9:15 a.m. "Wheels up" anytime after that, to return by 1 p.m.

To watch: Watch takeoffs between 9-10 a.m. and landings between 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or . Follow on Twitter at .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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