Amongst other things, this morning’s TDC meeting included some spirited discussion on the viability of a Fall Motorcycle Rally. The spring rally, according to organizers, gets better every year. But the growth of the Fall rally has been stunted because of the date of the event.
Last year, Thunder Beach organizers were vying for the Columbus Day weekend to hold their fall event. This is a weekend, that historically, included family-related events such as the Panama City Beach Seafood Wine and Music Festival. The TDC did not support the date change, thus it didn’t happen.
This is the argument for Columbus Day Weekend
Here are the dates of the large Fall motorcycle rallys:
- The weekend of September 23rd is the Reno Street Vibrations rally.
- The weekend of September 30th is the Las Vegas BikeFest AND the Thunder Beach Motorcycle Rally.
- The weekend of October 8th is Columbus Day weekend with no large motorcycle rally events on the national calendar.
- The weekend of October 15th is Biketoberfest in Daytona
Joe Biggs, the Thunder Beach organizer argues that currently, where Thunder Beach falls in the schedule, it heavily competes with other events for vendors. This is, in my opinion a very valid point as there is a clear gap, that if the Panama City Beach event could be moved back just one week, vendors could travel from Reno, to Las Vegas, to Panama City Beach, to Daytona. They are coming down here anyway.
Biggs said that if the fall event can’t be moved, it’s still not going away, but if it could be moved to Columbus Day weekend, it could be as big, if not larger, than the spring rally.
The argument against Columbus Day weekend
“Columbus Day weekend has always been that last shot for families to come down to the beach, and we all know that families and bikers don’t mix,” said board member Gary Walsingham.
“We’ve all tried to get families down here in the fall and we’ve never been able to get it to work,” retorted past board chair Marty McDaniel and owner of Oaseas Resorts, “but we have an obligation to grow business in the fall and this is the best way to do it.”
Oaseas Resorts is the onsite property management company for Shores of Panama, a large venue sponsor for Thunder Beach.
Came for $100k, left with $40k
McDaniel made a motion to grant $100k to Thunder Beach to help promote the fall event, an amount never before given to an event as sponsorship dollars. The motion was seconded by member Ken Nelson, but was voted no by everyone except McDaniel, Patronis, and Nelson.
Board member Andy Phillips followed that failing vote with a motion to grant Thunder Beach $40,000 to be used towards marketing. This vote went through with all voting in agreement with the exception of Mayor Oberst.
My opinion, take it for what it’s worth
I have had a rocky history with Thunder Beach. But, I’ve always recognized it for bringing people to our beach and generating tourist dollars during the shoulder season. I’ve always recognized it as very successful, while still maintaining a constant level of annoyance with the traffic, noise and sometimes rude behavior.
With that said, I think a move to Columbus Day weekend would be great for the event AND the area. Even with the Panama City Beach Seafood Wine and Music Festival, I still don’t think that weekend has ever been a large draw for out of town visitors.
I could be wrong. Please prove me wrong if I am as I’m going off of personal experience and not a stack of reports.
But, if we have a chance to elevate this event to bring in more people, which I strongly feel that we do in this case, I say we do it. Although Biggs has made no comment to this effect, if he was to move the fall event elsewhere, or the whole event elsewhere, businesses would definitely miss Thunder Beach. Putting ourselves in a situation where we could lose a fantastic event that draws thousands (even if no one can agree to the real number) of out of towners is a mistake.
What are your thoughts? I know historically, our readers have had a love/hate relationship with Thunder Beach. What do you think, should it be moved?