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Side-by-Side Poker Run in Center raises funds for Honor Flight

Posted on Saturday, October 24, 2020 at 5:35 pm

Side-by-side riders take off-roading to the extreme through the Spencer Creek bottoms about 16 miles north of Vandalia, Mo.

Perry Poker Run raises money for healthcare

By Barry Dalton

If you play golf, or you just need a quick way to get around your campground, neighborhood, farm or wharehouse, you’ve probably discovered how useful a golf cart can be. A standard or modified golf cart is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while easily and safely getting from point A to point B. 

But if you also have a need for speed, or you want to go offroading—with someone sitting next to you–then a side-by-side is the definite way to go. Side-by-sides, or utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), come in many shapes and sizes. Some look like tiny pickups while others look like rugged race cars. Their versatility separates them from all terrain vehicles (ATVs), which don’t have room for passengers or storage.

Many people also consider customized golf carts to be side-by-sides even though they’re lower to the ground and best used on grass or pavement. Dalton Walker’s long driveway, just off of Hwy. 54 in downtown Curryville, is often lined with brightly colored golf carts–purple, green, red–that turn the heads of anyone who passes by. 

“The first golf cart I built, I did for my little granddaughter who is disabled and couldn’t ride bicycles,” said Dalton Walker. “I just do it as a hobby and as a way to get around.”

Many campgrounds only allow golf carts because they are slower and quieter.

“We have a camper at Big Larry’s Campground, which is owned by someone from Vandalia,” said Bruce Bollinger of Perry. “If you want to go and see everybody in the campground, you gotta have a good way to get around.”

There are a number of places in Missouri that sell golf carts for sport, business or transportation. M&M, just west of Mexico, has been in the business since 1970. 

“We get a lot of older clientele in and farmers who don’t care about speed so much,” said Mark Miller, a co-owner of M&M along with his brothers and parents Chris and Vivian Miller. “They just want dependability and getting where they need to go, and that’s more of our thing here.”

M&M moved to its current golf cart location, on Highway 22, 18 years ago, and now has four other stores in St. Louis, Kansas City, Wichita and Quad Cities. It sells golf carts and side-by-sides, for work or pleasure, but all of its vehicles go 25 mph or less. Its clients include factories, farms and other businesses such as Ameren. 

“Golf carts are not designed to go that fast, so they do not have roll cages or seatbelts,” Miller noted.

M&M’s best seller is the Club Car, a golf cart brand that has been around since the 1960s. Golf carts have a variety of models with some that can seat up to eight people with a number of optional features.

Miller says sales have increased 50-60 percent since April. Factory incentives and a desire to be outside have pushed sales.

“Anything in the outdoor business is doing very well,” Miller said. “This showroom usually has 60 carts and UTVs in it. Today, I might have 10 or 12. Sales have been very good. I still have 50 carts on order because I can’t get them fast enough.”


Side-by-Sides for Work


Depending upon your budget, UTVs can be as loaded as you want them to be. Tracy DeTienne of Sydenstricker Nobbe Partners says a basic side-by-side would just be an open station with no roof or doors and regular tires.

“The fancy side-by-side would be chrome wheels with air conditioning–all of the features, winches and everything else on it,” DeTienne said.

Sydenstricker Nobbe Partners specializes in large farm equipment with stores in Illinois and Missouri, including Curryville and Mexico.  

DeTienne said the UTV has replaced old pickup trucks on many farms.

They’re smaller than a truck and they go places that other vehicles won’t go,” he said. “They can go fast and have the safety features.”

Phil Ennis, owner of Ennis Implement Co. in Vandalia, agreed. “Take a person who has livestock,” Ennis explained. “You got a small bed on it, you can get out in rough terrain in the field. If you need to take some feed out to some livestock.” 

Ennis Implement Co. also specializes in large farm machinery and has locations in Vandalia, Mexico and Troy.

“It has kind of replaced the four wheeler but you can do more with it, and it’s a lower priced vehicle than a pickup,” he said. “You can get out in a pasture with cattle and you’re not worried about them running into the side of your nice pickup.”


Side-by-Sides for Pleasure


“Golf carts are too slow,” said Kelly Smith, a member of Vandalia’s Swamp Donkeys side-by-side club. “And they can’t go down in the ditches and play in the mud.”

Side-by-sides get their name because they are designed for passengers. The two seater with a bed or a storage box for a cooler on the back is the most popular, but you can also get four seats if more the merrier appeals to you. 

“We got four seats so we could take friends with us,” said Barb Brewer, also a member of the Swamp Donkeys. “It’s a lot more fun with friends.”

In addition to your own land, there are many places and events throughout the year to enjoy offroading and socializing with friends and strangers in Missouri, such as Potawatomi Off Road Park near Fulton and Vandyz in Steedman, although at these parks you’ll share the trails with jeeps, dune buggies and even SUVs. 

Finger Lakes State Park in Columbia, St. Joe State Park in Park Hills and Shepherd of the Hills in Branson are some options that prohibit larger vehicles on trails. For more destination details, visit

“There’s people that come from out of state [to Vandyz] just to ride,” said Ryan Vandelicht, of Fulton, who owns a 700CC Honda side-by-side. “Everybody eats and drinks and gets along. Every year, they have three or four rides there, you get 500-600 people show up to it.”

A ride is a social event that is little more than an excuse to go offroading–not that there’s anything wrong with that–but poker runs are also becoming increasingly popular, often with charitable causes.

On Oct. 10, Rick’s Place, a bar in Perry, held its fourth annual charity poker run to benefit someone in dire need of healthcare and financial support in the area. Both golf carts and UTVs attended.

“We’re supporting the cause for the poker run,” said Bob Wreck, a golf cart owner. “It’s a good time and it’s a good cause. We enjoy being outside.”

On Oct. 17, Center hosted its annual charity poker run for the Great River Honor Flight (GRHF).

GRHF is an honor flight hub serving the Hannibal, Quincy and Keokuk areas including as far as Audrain County. 

If you know any veteran in the Vandalia area who wants to go or hasn’t gone yet, tell them to contact me at my office,” said Dr. Mark Tucker, a Center physician who serves on the GRHF board. “This event raises money every year to help send any veteran who qualifies and wants to have a truly wonderful experience.”

The Center poker run is a 110-mile cross country trek ranging from Center to the Spencer Creek bottoms about 16 miles north of Vandalia to Vandalia Lake and back, ending with a barbecue at the farm of the local Center organizers, John and Sharon Lake. 

Many families participated this year including the Fox family from Troy, who sported not one, but two side-by-sides, one big and one small.

“That’s a side by side built for kids [behind me],” said Darren Fox, who had his wife, Nikki, next to him and his youngest children, Holden and Oakley, in the backseat. “Instead of four-wheelers, they get what dad’s got. That’s MaKenzie in the passenger seat and Jake is driving.”


Features and Repairs


In the early 1990s there were four manufacturers of utility vehicles and now there are more than two dozen, each with different options. Some side by sides are geared more toward play while others are built for work. 

There are always two seats in front, and depending on the model, features can include doors or no doors, roof or no roof, roll cages, seat belts, heat, A/C, stereo, automatic windows, four-wheel drive and power steering. You can also choose a flatbed, a storage area for a cooler or add additional seating. More information can be found at

The increased number of side-by-sides and features has also increased demand for maintenance and repair.

“I’m busy until the end of the year,” said Nathan Pargeon of Red Line Motor Sports in Laddonia. “In September I had to stop taking new repair jobs.” 

Users could reduce the frequency of repairs if they did proper maintenance, but repairs are also just a part of offroading. Dargeon says he fixes everything from tires, wheels and axles to electronics and motors. He works on Polaris models the most, he says. 

“In my opinion, my side-by-side is the best purchase I’ve ever made, even though I’d probably go for a Polaris with power steering next time,” said Vandelicht, who uses his side-by-side for work and pleasure. “If it blows up tonight, I’ll be sitting up at the dealership in the morning getting me another one.”

Three sit cozily in their small UTV as they participate in the Honor Flight poker run  in Center, Mo.

Troy Powell, Christena Durham, Ronnie Krigbaum, Barb Brewer, Kelly Smith and Dale Smith are members of the Vandalia Swamp Donkey side-by-side club, pictured here at the Perry Charity Poker Run. Sandy Bollinger and Bruce Bollinger in the golf cart on the left, J.P. Burleson, Robyn Burleson and Tracy Brandenburger, in the center, and Debbie Wreck and Katelyn Foster in the golf cart on the right attended the Perry Poker Run.

Sandy Bollinger and Bruce Bollinger in the golf cart on the left, J.P. Burleson, Robyn Burleson and Tracy Brandenburger, in the center, and Debbie Wreck and Katelyn Foster in the golf cart on the right attended the Perry Charity Poker Run.