The idea of the Thunder Run first came about during a discussion between Bill Coon and Jeff Guyas, the owner of Wawasee Slip. Both of the gentlemen own their own wooden boats and thought it was a shame that most of the wooden boats on Lake Wawasee didn’t get a chance to run anymore. The guys got a group of about six boats together and took the first of many parade laps around the lake.
Now the Thunder Run is on its third year. Each Sunday between Memorial Day and Labor Day wooden boat enthusiasts meet at Conklin Bay. The parade is simple, one lap counter-clockwise around Wawasee Lake that starts at 10 a.m. Every week a different boat leads the parade and the rest of the boats travel single file behind.
Coon and Guyas organize the parade with the help of Luke Knecht. Luke’s wife, Jeanne, also helps out by photographing the parade each week and running the Facebook page, Wawasee Wooden Boats.
“People think that these boats are really fragile and finicky,” said Knecht. “But then they see us going around the lake with big smiles on and think that maybe it’s not that hard.”
The parade has seen an increase in boats coming out to participate. Some people have even purchased wooden boats since the Thunder Run started.
“When you go out and run the boats it just makes everyone else want one, too,” said Guyas.
Most of the boats in the parade each week are Chris Crafts. Wawasee Slip was first founded in 1922 and was the third top Chris Craft dealer in the nation. This large dealer made Wawasee a hot spot for Chris Craft boats, many of which still exist on the lake today. The oldest boat that has run in the parade so far is from 1938.
There is no registration process or entry forms to fill out in order to participate in the Thunder Run. Anyone who is interested in the event is welcome to take their boat to Conklin Bay on Sunday morning and join in on the fun. For those wishing to watch the parade the best spots to catch a glimpse of the boats are at the end of a pier or Oakwood Resort.