Thunder Beach Still Has Some Lightning

thunderbeach053The weeks leading up to Thunder Beach weekend I listened to and was inadvertently absorbed into spirited debates about the chromed-out 3 day event. Some people love it, waxed their bikes, strapped on the chaps and venue-hopped all weekend. Others loathed it, cursed it from their cars as group rides roared by them and spent the weekend avoiding the outdoors. It is, like Spring Break, a very polarizing event to say the least.

But as I attended a venue at Frank Brown Park, the air smelling of BBQ pork and exhaust pipe, chrome glinting in the sun, I found myself siding with the bikers and the pro-Thunder Beach gang. Yes, the event brings money to Panama City Beach and economically covers a seasonal dip in our tourism, but none of those things swayed me. There were a few things I noticed at Frank Brown. First, I noticed some of the most hardcore bikers, men that looked like they ate meat raw, as giddy as teenagers. Leather clad folks walked the Frank Brown Park grounds in high-spirits; no screaming and no fighting, just bike lovers enjoying bikes. I also noticed an atypical sense of camaraderie. Strangers sat together to discuss engine types, drifters perused vendor stations asking questions and buying merchandise. None of this seemed remotely “spring-break-ish” to me.

But what I found the most astonishing was the cleanliness. There was little trash anywhere; the place was virtually spotless. On our beach this weekend we endured thousands of bikers, hundreds of thousands of cases of beer and water bottles but I challenge you to show me a parking lot that looked anything like the post-Lil Wayne concert landfill. I scratched my head and wondered, other than the noise, what’s makes some Panama City Beach residents loathe thunder beach? The answer didn’t come to me until I ventured over to Pier Park to watch the Harley Davidson Drill Team.

thunderbeach088Pier Park was packed with people all over the place; the venue really seemed to have a lot going on. After the drill team’s awesome bike safety show, I walked over to the bike showcase to get a sense of the crowd, which, different than the Frank Brown park crowd, consisted mostly of families. By the dozens, babies in strollers gawked at bikes along with their parents, fathers, with proud arms draped around their sons, used the venue to teach their boys about the artistry behind bike design.

Watching the crowds, I thought, this is what Thunder Beach is supposed to be. But then, while I snapped shots of antique roadsters, a woman walked up wearing a bikini that covered the bare minimum of her triple X parts. Mind you, this all happened 5 steps from a carousel filled with children. Families pulled their kids away and the mood, which had been a mellow excitement, mutated into something far less wholesome. At that moment I realized what all the fuss was about.

Thunder Beach has two very distinct personalities. For the majority of the Thunder Beach crowd it’s all about good clean fun. But for every 25 fun-loving bikers, there’s 1 who will make all the others look bad–real bad. Throughout the week I saw things like the Kevin Kight memorial parade where 1,000 riders paid tribute to one of our city’s fallen heroes. I followed the Thunder Beach tweets which boasted updates about the real fun being had all over the beach. At the same time, I listened to stories from residents whose babies were thrown out of sleep by a bike tearing through a residential street and a mother in a kid-stuffed mini-van being berated with profanities for a simple merging mistake (Sorry Ash). If you don’t believe me you should read some of the comments on my last Thunder Beach post. Both sides have valid arguments, but what’s the solution?

Truly, there is no solution, but perhaps there is a middle ground. Frankly, I thought this year was one of the best the city has experienced. Droves of people and business hit Panama City Beach during a seasonal tourism drought. Most venues were classy, exciting and people really had an awesome time. I wouldn’t change anything about how well Thunder Beach Productions and other private organizers handled a very successful event. Not everyone’s experience with the event was as good as mine and for the people of our city to welcome bikers, compromises have to be made. Here are a few ideas I thought up.

1. Tighten up the venues. There was so much going on so many different places all over the beach that can cause an inconvenience. Acknowledging how important it is to involve business as well as provide bikers a chance to “ride” from place to place, one less venue could mean even better organization.

2. Restrict residential streets. I don’t want to go all “Myrtle” on the bikers because they are welcomed here, but certain residential roads shouldn’t have to endure bikers at 2am. I don’t know how or if this is even possible, but it should be considered.

3.Post safety and warning signs. Sometimes people just don’t know what you stand for or don’t condone if you don’t tell them. Post signs during the weekend to ask bikers to be have fun, be safe and show courtesy. “Be Nice…I’m Local” should do the trick.

In the end, I have to say kudos to everyone involved in a great event. The stunt bikes at Frank Brown Park were amazing and the bands, oh the bands, tore stages up all over the beach. Although, I believe the bickering between residents and Thunder Beach is ongoing, one thing is for sure, whether you love it or hate it, they put on one heck of a show. Huge shout out to Corky over at Thunder Beach Productions, great job and thanks for everything.

I’m curious to hear what ideas other people have come up with. What are your Thunder Beach experiences and would you change anything about it? Post your comments here.

Be sure to check out our Thunder Beach Videos at YouTube.com/pcbdaily

The Thunder Rolls: Thunder Beach Schedule

img_7064Thunder beach weekend has arrived on Panama City Beach. Already the streets are lined with amazing bikes, the venues packed with vendors and leather-clad customers and all over the beach the excitement is palpable. This is the weekend to get out and enjoy the scene. On stages at seven different venues artists are performing live music, free bike demos are available and X-game-style bike stunts are blowing people away. Thunder Beach Productions has put together a weekend that should keep the thunder rolling. Here is a list of the weekend’s events.

Boardwalk Beach Resort
9400 South Thomas Drive
Panama City Beach, Florida 32407
Thursday September 30, 2008

Friday : May 1, 2009
Location:
Boardwalk Beach Resort
Time:
9am ? until Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
1pm “Sizzle” ? Lingerie Show
1pm Full Throttle Magazine’s Freaky at The Tiki Party
4pm “Show Me Your Tat?s” ? Tattoo Contest
6pm Miss Thunder Beach Pageant Finale
6pm to 9pm Live Entertainment GRIP

Saturday May 2, 2009
Location:
Boardwalk Beach Resort
Time:
9am ? until Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
1pm “Sizzle” ? Lingerie Show
1pm-5pm Live Entertainment Drew Tilman Acoustic
1pm Butt?s And Bellies – Male Fashion Show
4pm “Show Me Your Tat?s” ? Tattoo Contest
6pm to 9pm Live Entertainment Kathy Jo & The Bluzification Band

Sunday : May 3, 2009
Location:
Boardwalk Beach Resort
Time:
9am ? until Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business

The Shoppes at Edgewater
513 Beckrich Road
Panama City Beach, FL

Saturday May 2, 2009
Location:
The Shoppes at Edgewater
Time:
9am ? til Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
11am-2pm Live music with Holdcell
3pm-6pm Live music with Rebel Syndicate
7pm-11pm Live music with The Drew Tilman Band

Sunday : May 3, 2009
Location:
The Shoppes at Edgewater
Time:
9am ? til Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business

Club La Vela
8813 Thomas Drive
Panama City Beach, Florida
32408

Thursday : April 30, 2009
Location:
Club La Vela
Time:
9am-til Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
11am-2pm Live music with TBA
2pm -5pm Live music with Rebel Syndicate
5pm-8pm Live music with ODIS

Friday : May 1, 2009
Location:
Club La Vela
Time:
9am-til Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
11am-2pm Live music with Kelly Hundly & The Healers
2pm -5pm Live music with Rebel Syndicate
5pm-8pm Live music with Holdcell

Saturday : May 2, 2009
Location:
Club La Vela
Time:
9am-til Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
11am-2pm Live music with Newfangled Theory
2pm -5pm Live music with ODIS
5pm-8pm Live music with King Cotton

Sunday : May 3, 2009
Location:
Club La Vela
Time:
9am ? til Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business

Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant & Bar
15201 Front Beach Road
Panama City Beach, Florida 32413

Wednesday: April 29,2009
Location:
Sharky’s Beach Front Restaurant & Tiki Bar
Time:
6pm ? 8pm $2.50 Drinks & Drafts All Brands
8pm – 1am Kickass Karaoke

Thursday : April 30, 2009
Location:
Sharky’s Beach Front Restaurant & Tiki Bar
Time:
11am Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
11am-til Food & Bar ? Burgers, BBQ & $2 Beer
12pm-6pm Bikini Bike Wash Sexy Suds & Shine
4pm-6pm Hawg Happy Hour
8pm – 12am Live Entertainement with TBA
12am Bodacious Biker Babe Contest

Friday : May 1, 2009
Location:
Sharky’s Beach Front Restaurant & Tiki Bar
Time:
11am Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
11am-til Food & Bar ? Burgers, BBQ & $2 Beer
12pm-6pm Bikini Bike Wash Sexy Suds & Shine
4pm-6pm Hawg Happy Hour
8pm – 12am Live Entertainement with TBA
12am Bodacious Biker Babe Contest

Saturday May 2, 2009
Location:
Sharky’s Beach Front Restaurant & Tiki Bar
Time:
11am Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
11am-til Food & Bar ? Burgers, BBQ & $2 Beer
12pm-6pm Bikini Bike Wash Sexy Suds & Shine
4pm-6pm Hawg Happy Hour
8pm – 12am Live Entertainement with TBA
12am Bodacious Biker Babe Contest

Sunday : May 3, 2009
Location:
Sharky’s Beach Front Restaurant & Tiki Bar
Time:
11am Schedule Coming Soon!

Pier Park
600 Pier Park Drive
Panama City Beach, FL 32413

Thursday : April 30, 2009
Location: Pier Park
Time:
10am-til Demo Rides with Yamaha, Boss Hoss & CF Moto

Friday : May 1, 2009
Location:
Pier Park
Time:
10am-til Demo Rides with Yamaha, Boss Hoss & CF Moto

Saturday May 2, 2009
Location:
Pier Park
Time:
10am-til Demo Rides with Yamaha, Boss Hoss & CF Moto
11am-til USRider News Best of The Beach Custom Bike Show

Sunday : May 3, 2009
Location:
Pier Park
Time:

Frank Brown Park
16200 Panama City Beach Parkway
Panama City Beach, FL 32413

***Demos and X-Game Stunts
Sandpiper Beacon Beach Resort
17403 Front Beach Rd,
Panama City Beach, FL 32413

Monday April 27, 2009
Location:Sandpiper Beacon & The World Famous Tiki Bar
Time:
8pm ? til Live music with GENEVA

Tuesday April 28, 2009
Location: Sandpiper Beacon & The World Famous Tiki Bar
Time:
8pm Live music with MUSTANG SALLY

Wednesday: April 29, 2009
Location: Sandpiper Beacon & The World Famous Tiki Bar
Time:
7pm Thunder Beach Kick Off Party
7pm Free Body Painting in the Tiki Bar
8pm Live music with MUSTANG SALLY
9pm Beachside Fireworks Display

Thursday : April 30, 2009
Location: Sandpiper Beacon & The World Famous Tiki Bar
Time:
11am Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
7pm-til Free Body Painting in the Tiki Bar
8 pm Live music with MUSTANG SALLY

Friday : May 1, 2009
Location: Sandpiper Beacon & The World Famous Tiki Bar
Time:
11am Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
3pmam Live music with GENEVA
7pm-til Free Body Painting in the Tiki Bar
8 pm Live music with ELI

Saturday May 2, 2009
Location: Sandpiper Beacon & The World Famous Tiki Bar
Time:
11am Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
3pmam Live music with GENEVA
7pm-til Free Body Painting in the Tiki Bar
8 pm Live music with ELI

Sunday : May 3, 2009
Location: Sandpiper Beacon & The World Famous Tiki Bar
Time:
11am Vendors & Exhibitors Open for Business
2pm TO BE ANNOUNCED

Rock’it Lanes
Shoppes at Edgewater
513 Beckrich Rd
Panama City Beach, FL 32407

***Vendors and Music

Thunder Beach Will Be Huge. Thanks Myrtle Beach

2890942751_ccc7337011If you’ve been aching to don that new leather vest and harness boots, ache no more. On April 30th Panama City Beach shall rumble, heralding the return of the Thunder Beach Spring Rally. From end to end, families, riders, celebrities, artists and some of the most spectacular bikes in the world will cover the beach.

Regarded by many as the “most biker friendly free rally in the United States”, the Thunder Beach Motorcycle Rally is always a big event. But this year’s event may be the best and biggest Panama City Beach has ever experienced and Myrtle Beach may have a lot to do with it.

As many of you know, Myrtle Beach is Panama City Beach’s largest competition when it comes to bikers and rallies. But by the looks of recent law changes, they might be getting out of the business. Recently, a 3 million dollar property tax increase was passed in Myrtle Beach to fund anti-rally efforts. That’s not the half of it. Myrtle Beach has also added new laws declaring unpermitted rallies and events to be public nuisances, created a midnight curfew, closed bars at 2 am, required all motorcyclists to wear helmets (not a requirement under state law), towing and impounding all motorcycles that do not meet noise standards, checkpoints where motorcycles will be monitored for noise, and traffic diversion such as barriers and closed streets. So what does all this mean? Basically, it means a bigger rally for Panama City Beach, and I’m sure the local businesses will take it.

“We’re definitely expecting huge turnout this year.” Says Corky McCollum, A Thunder Beach Productions coordinator. “We’ve got bigger events, more venues and the total numbers of vendors have increased considerably.”

The schedule for bike week is substantial and the venues cover the entire beach. The list of venues include, Shoppes at Edgewater, Club La Vela, Sandpiper Beacon, Boardwalk Beach Resort, Sharky’s, Pier Park, Rockit Lanes and Frank Brown Park.

And the events this year are family-friendly. There will be demos all over the beach particularly the Harley Davidson Drill Team at Pier Park. They’ll be teaching and doing all sorts of stunts. If that doesn’t make you want to jump into your chaps, at Club La Vela, Speed Channel’s Jay Barbieri, host of American Thunder, will be hosting a televised “Build Off” allowing two bikers to pick any parts from their accessory demo rig to amp-up their bikes. Suckerpunch Sally, an old-school bike manufacturer will be giving away one of its beautiful custom bikes during a VIP party at Ebro Greyhound Park. At Frank Brown Park X-game enthusiasts can witness firsthand the amazing jumps seen on television as stunt bikers hit ramps and the “Ball of Death”. Live bands will be playing at all the venues. Everyone is welcome to come out to enjoy the events and, if nothing else, gawk at some amazing bikes.

Without doubt, the Thunder Beach Spring Rally is expected to be a success. So I guess, if things go as planned, we should all head to Hallmark, get a nice big thank you card and send it to Myrtle Beach. I’ll be the first to sign it.

Firefly Restaurant Review

The Lighting of a New Era in Fine Dining

Nestled in the Shoppes at Edgewater, Firefly is Panama City Beach’s newest fine dining experience. From the moment I walked through the door I knew this was no ordinary beach eatery serving the usual beach fare. A beautiful waterfall adorning the wall behind the bar creates a “Wow Factor” upon entering the front lounge. An adjoining lounge with sofas and live music on Thursdays and Saturdays adds a tranquil and sumptuous feel to Firefly’s stylish environment. And keep walking…the biggest Wow Factor is yet to come: A huge oak tree – adorned with fireflies throughout – stands smack dab in the middle of the dining room. A description in words doesn’t do this vision justice…you just have to go there and see for yourself. Everything I sampled at Firefly was a notch above “really good.” Which is to say, simply, they got it right.

We began the journey with an aperitif of martinis. The Espresso Martini was thick and rich, cold, and not too sweet (which is a common mistake with martinis). The Pineapple Marini was refreshingly fruity and mellow. Our Tempura Fried Apalachicola Oysters were light and tender, served with a tangy cocktail sauce and an assembly of pickled parsnips, shallots, carrots, snap peas and red endive. The Tuna Nicoise, a scoop of sushi-grade rare tuna, was drizzled with basil oil and had a slightly savory, nutty finish. We sampled a bowl of smooth-as-silk Carrot Ginger Gazpacho swirled with a biting red pepper coulis, and garnished with a steak kabob. The vegetables and herbs that went into this cool concoction were so fresh the flavor spanked my taste buds, and the oversized white porcelain bowl added a cartoon-like whimsical flair to the presentation. Next came the Hydroponic Salad…butter lettuce underneath a confetti of strawberries and goat cheese, trickled with a warm brown butter pecan dressing.

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