Will the Seafood Festival be Back?

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.

24 thoughts on “Will the Seafood Festival be Back?

  1. I applaud the efforts of the three men that stepped up to save this event over the past 3 years. This event was fun for all ages and needs to survive. Is the TDC that blind. We need an attraction to our community in the Fall that is not so niche (ie: Bike Rally, Car Show, etc.) To change the event to a beerfest would be a ridiculus idea beacuse we already have a beerfest here. It lasts six weeks in February and March every year.


  2. Who wants to eat seafood from the toxic Gulf? 200 million gallons of oil and chemicals are still in the water. Nothing has been cleaned up, except for a few tar balls. It’s so sad that our awesome Gulf will be contaminated for 100 years. Us Americans are so easily fooled.


  3. I really like your “positive” attitude DS, you really are a glass half empty person with that kind of post.


  4. Dear GreggT: Reality hurts. Ignoring the toxic disaster is not a solution. The goo is laying on the sea floor and it’s not going to magically disappear. Get mad at the culprits, not me.


  5. Jason: Do you really believe your source? Wow. Do a Google search for these words: seafood toxic gulf of Mexico. If you do not like my realistic views, then censor my posts like they do in Iran or China. I love PCB and am furious about what the culprits have gotten away with. Eat all the fish tacos you want. It’s a free country.


    1. Ok, DS, I did as you suggested and searched the keywords [seafood toxic gulf of Mexico] and found NOTHING from what I would consider a credible source.

      I did see, however, some information from conspiracy theorist sites and the like – none of which I typically consider to have trusted information. Yes, I trust NOAA before these second-hand, theory sites that have NO funding, NO clout and NO reputation.

      I also found an article from The Washington Post that the US Military was buying Gulf seafood to help boost sales this year.

      I am just as furious as you are about what has happened, but fortunately we weren’t effected other than economically last year. It’s comments like yours that lead to visitor and consumer speculation that hurts REAL people and businesses for no reason. You spreading rumors like this does nothing to hurt BP, the Federal Government or any other large organization you’re against, it hurts the people on the ground, the businesses that survive in this industry and small business owners like myself. Is that what you’re trying to do???


  6. Jason: You are absolutely correct and I’m wrong. I guess an alien spaceship vacuumed up 200 million gallons of oil, along with chemicals, and took it to Pluto. The GOM must be perfectly clean. I think I’ll chow down on some oysters and shrimp tonight. (not).


  7. I google everything I’m thinking of doing or eating and believe every negative thing I read. Consequently I am starving to death and cannot leave my house … but my house is also terribly unsafe … I don’t know what to do anymore. Help me!


  8. DS is one of those that thinks those seldom seen blue reflectors placed on our highways are there to guide the UN troops when they take over the US.


  9. Hmmm.
    The lens through which people see the world colors their reality.
    As Glenn Beck always says: “Go out and do your own research and find out the truth for yourself.” Don’t rely on any single (likely biased) source. Seek multiple sources to determine if what you believe is true.


  10. Obviously all “events” are not treated equal in Panama City Beach. The Seabreeze Jazz Festival (produced and promoted by WSBZ Radio in Santa Rosa Beach) only receives $10,000 of funding from the TDC and we bring in people from all over the USA including the U.K., Germany, and other countries. Why would the Seafood Festival need that much money from the TDC to be successful? We are a small radio station in South Walton County with a staff of less than 8. If we can produce a four day festival and stay profitable without receiving additional TDC money, why can’t other promoters be held to the same standard? Maybe the TDC needs to spend thier money on creating NEW tourism revenue sources that are self-supporting and create response from people NEW to Panama City Beach. Why target the same tired demo that already frequents Panama City Beach? How many years can you save the same festival without any realistic expectation that the promoter would become, at some time, self-supporting?


  11. Where did 200 million gallons of toxic oil and Corexit go? (Sound of crickets).

    Robert: I’m always impressed when five year olds try to engage in high level, adult conversations. Our nation’s future is in good hands.


  12. I think the concept of charging people to come in to an event where they have to spend more money to eat and drink is not one that encourages people to come. I can go and eat a full meal at any of the restaurants for a lot less than what it costs to eat at the seafood festival. Just get rid of the food the way it is and have snack food drinks and good entertainment and people will come.


  13. 20,000 families in October ain’t bad, but it’s the dinks that are gonna make the difference. The myopic refusal to recognize that fact will always plague fall events.


  14. The problem with the Seafood and wine festival is that there was very little seafood or wine. The vendors were pretty similar to what you find at First Friday every month – for FREE. The $20 entrance fee was for the entertainment. I think it is mis-marketed. If you are going to put on a seafood and wine festival, then make the focus on the seafood and the wine. If the focus is on typical carny food and a concert, then call it a fall concert that you charge $20 for. That is cheap for a 3 day concert.


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