Presented by the Sweetwater Performance Center and Dockside Tavern, the Oshkosh ToonFest offers an all-day event held on the beautiful Winnebago Waterways of Wisconsin and it’s happening once again in July. ToonFest is a special poker run designed specifically for pontoon boats of all makes and sizes, guiding boaters along a tour of local establishments and a thriving community for drinks, food, music, prizes.
The Oshkosh ToonFest grew from the Four Horsemen Poker Run, a go-fast boating event that saw contestants making stops along the coasts to gather cards for a full poker hand, eventually making a play at the end of the course for a grand prize. While the Winnebago poker run was well-received, there was a growing interest in something new, with spectators wanting an opportunity to bring their pontoons out for some fun too.
Jason Lindemann, owner of the Sweetwater Performance Center, and fellow poker run organizers Jeff Eiden and Gary Swanson saw an opportunity. Over time, this team gauged community interest in this pontoon-exclusive event, and found overwhelming support. In 2020, the first ToonFest hit the waters with contributions from a variety of local sponsors who provide the prizes and vendors who man the stops.
At ToonFest, each boat that enters can have up to 10 passengers, and the pontoon can be any size, make, or model. Contestants begin with a stamp card and set off on a pre-planned route. For each stop, the card is stamped to prove their visit. Anyone with a full stamped card is eligible to win a handsome trophy and a $300 cash prize.
However, ToonFest isn’t a race, as you don’t have to have the fastest boat or best helmsman to win a prize. You just have to have a good time and a dash of good luck. The outing begins and ends at the Sweetwater Performance Center and adjacent Dockside Tavern, which is also owned by organizers. Win or lose, contestants are invited to a dinner with live entertainment to wrap up the itinerary. Anyone with a pontoon is welcome to come, and contestants walk away with themed merchandise and possibly some new friends they met on the journey. They’ll also have a newfound appreciation for the waterways of Wisconsin and all the area has to offer.
Above all else, ToonFest is a community experience. The organizers deeply enjoy contestants’ simple thank yous for another year well done, and for the opportunity to meet fellow boating enthusiasts and spend quality time on the water. The first year of the ToonFest saw 45 boats participating, a number that swelled to 66 boats during the 2021 event a year later. By the looks of it, the event will continue to grow, drawing a sizable crowd of eager boaters to share the waterways from the early morning departure to the great dinner and live music at the end. Once you’re used to the experience and meet the great people at the Sweetwater Performance Center and the Dockside Tavern, you’ll come back year after year and have the opportunity to watch this event grow. Click here for more information or to get sign up for ToonFest.