This week’s TDC meeting ended unclear of the future of the Panama City Beach Seafood Wine and Music Festival. The event last year was more successful than it had ever been, but it also had $210,000 worth of funding. There is only a prospective $60,000 on the table this year, and that’s not even certain. With nobody having stepped up to the plate to take over running the event and limited funds, at this point, the future of the Seafood Festival is totally unknown.
Jack Bishop, CJ Ryan and Steve Pizza took over the event three years ago with big plans of finally organizing the event, tracking the success/progress and having a solid model that could work for anyone. For years there was wild speculation of 30,000+ attendees and unparalleled success. Bishop’s team set all that straight. Their methodology and record keeping proved that the numbers of past reported could never have been possible. The biggest year for the event was 2010 with Lynyrd Skynyrd headlining, bringing just over 20,000 people through their gates over a weekend.
But after two years of losing private money and barely breaking even last year, Bishop’s team stood down from organizing the event and taking all the financial risk. In a previous article, he was heard mentioning that if he wasn’t forced to take so much risk, he’d be willing to continue to work with the festival.
So what’s to come of it this year? We don’t know yet.
Chatter in the TDC meeting this week included having an emphasis more on beer. Wait, what? Yea, I know.
Former TDC chairman Marty McDaniel mentioned the possible need of giving it a new face and repackaging it. . . again. Again, this doesn’t make sense. I think the festival has grown greatly in a positive direction over the last couple years, and as of today, we have more data about this specific event than we’ve EVER had. Before we knew nothing, now we know exactly how many attendees have been at the event each year, and last year there was an economic impact study conducted. This study concluded that we had an economic impact of over $3 million come into our area as a direct result of this event.
There is a huge element that needs to be discussed, however. Last year the TDC had BP money to use to help market our area. This provided the Seafood Festival with an additional $150,000 for the event. This year the money’s not there. If anything, the Tourist Development Council (TDC) will only be providing $60,000 to the event leaving the rest of the funding to be raised by the organizers.
So, what’s the answer? Officially, there is not one yet. In two weeks the board is going to come up with some suggestions for review.
In the end, I think the need for the event is there, I think success can be had, and I think many greatly enjoy and benefit from this fall shot in the arm. But, the event as a whole needs to cost less, much less. There’s an old adage: “If you want more money, you have to spend less.” For this event, I think if some crazy rocket scientist was to hire the algorithm engineers at Google to figure out some top secret way to make this event cost less overall, Panama City Beach could be happier as a whole.