Thunder Beach Autumn Rally vs Seafood Festival [REPORT]

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by December 18, 2010 • 12 comments

At Tuesday’s TDC meeting, the big guns of Thunder Beach approached the board asking to move their Autumn Rally to Columbus Day Weekend.

Currently, the rally is held on the first weekend in October. Reason for wanting to change the date were stated as follows:

  1. Ability to confirm more Vendors presence
  2. More Vendors = more attendants
  3. More Attendants = boost in Panama City Beach’s economy

While the TDC acknowledges the potential boost in revenue, the board did have multiple concerns over allowing the date change to take place:

  1. The Seafood Festival currently holds the date for Columbus Day Weekend
  2. The festival is scheduled to coincide with the Fall Break schedules of kids
  3. Families may not want to visit while Thunder Beach is happening
  4. The businesses that don’t prosper from Thunder Beach, would suffer from the loss of families opting not to come

Joe and Rich, both stated clear, concise reasons for wanting to move the Autumn Rally date, with the main point of interest being that with the date change, Thunder Beach would be able to solidify more vendors, which in turn brings more bikers, which of course, heightens revenue for merchants, lodging and as a whole- the majority of businesses in the Panama City Beach area. They cited that by changing the date to Columbus Day weekend, it frees up scheduling conflicts with vendors and events on a national scale.

Currently, the Autumn Rally is scheduled right after the popular West Coast event, Street Vibrations in Reno, NV and right before Daytona’s Biketoberfest. If you consider the national scheduling of these events, it puts the vendors in a position of having to choose which event they can commit to, and since the Autumn event falls smack in the middle of two major rallys, Vendors are opting to by-pass Thunder Beach. Leaving our Panama City Beach event with few vendors, and less appeal for the event’s two-wheeled enthusiast.

The idea behind moving the date to Columbus Day, is an interesting one. Thunder Beach is a solid event for the economy, participants have typically proven to be well-behaved, respectful and money spending. However, as Mayor Gayle Oberst thoughtfully pointed out, Panama City Beach is composed of both Businesses and Families.

The coveted Columbus Day Weekend currently plays host to the family friendly Seafood Festival. It’s a time when parents can capitalize on kid’s schools Fall Break time, and possibly squeeze in one last outing before buckling down for the coming winter.

That’s the type of welcoming environment the TDC is worried about losing, with the question being if they moved the Seafood Festival (to allow Thunder Beach use of Columbus Day Weekend) would the city be potentially setting themselves up to lose its family friendly fall tourism nitch? The two events are typically polar opposites of each other, with families choosing to vacation or visit PCB when it’s not packed with Bikers, essentially making it unlikely the two events could share the same weekend.

Overall, the TDC volleyed back and forth with Thunder Beach, both sides able to see the potential of hosting the rally during the long weekend, yet the TDC Board values the family friendly events the city host through out the Fall.

In the end, the Tourist Development Council didn’t support moving the date of the rally.  Concerns of families being deterred from coming during the “fall-break” week and the prospects of the Seafood Festival becoming a stable stake for the fall tourism season reinforced that decision. For now, the dates will stay the same.

What are your thoughts on this?

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1 Ryan December 18, 2010 at 1:03 pm

They made the right choice. I don’t know why they allow this event twice a year anyway. I live by the park and once a year is too much. I’ll bet the money generated goes more to the out if town vendors and promoters than the community. While they may mostly behave this event hurts our rep and probably runs off more tourism dollars than it generates. Families and upscale condo renters don’t mix.


2 Gerald R December 18, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Moving the Thunderbeach fall rally to the fall school break period would hurt our rentals and eventually run off the families. We’ve already run the families off from the month of March. This is the second time the fall date has changed in the past year or so. Could it be that there’s just not enough interest in a fall rally at this time?


3 John December 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Good decision. Families are forced to stay away whenever Thunder Beach is in town.


4 Anthony December 21, 2010 at 9:16 am

Wise choice TDC. Now get behind the Seafood Festival and support it!!


5 Bob December 21, 2010 at 9:36 am

I do not hear anyone mentioning the “noise pollution” issue with Thunder Beach. The street side bedroom occupants do not get a good nights sleep!


6 Greg December 21, 2010 at 11:04 am

I’m a biker, and enjoy Thunder Beach, but I agree, the right decision was made – it’s extremely important to support the family events. The bikers will continue to come to well organized and community supported events, we don’t need to drive a wedge between various groups.


7 bear December 22, 2010 at 10:24 am

I Dont think you no what your giving up I would like to see it moved and made better


8 Rya Holloway December 22, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Thanks for taking the time to share different views on this topic! It’s been great to hear opinions from residents, bikers and businesses (or all of the above in some cases.) Out of curiosity, how many of you attend the Thunder Beach events? Do you go to both, or just the Spring (or Fall) one? Or do you avoid it all together, and wait for the Seafood Festival?


9 Roger December 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm

I know this was a tough decision. I think I would have made the same but TB is great for PCB. TB is everything you want in an event, heads in beds and food. I saw the results earlier this year and both TB weekends were in the Top 10 for the year. Waiters love it because bikers tip well.

I agree both events wouldn’t do well on same weekend. Hopefully, seafood festival will get on sound footing and grow. Fall break is important to PCB also.


10 Cary Deeter December 25, 2010 at 7:43 am

I have difficulty understanding those opposed to the Biker Community coming together for commraderie, fellowship, and having a good time. If anyone checks the demographics the majority of “Bikers” are from every walk of life and every profession. The average income of a “Biker” is $85000.00 per annum to $150,000. and up, most are 45 to 65 years of age, have college degrees, have raised raised there families, most are proud veterans or currently serving in the US Armed forces, and yes,we like loud pipes not obnoxiously loud pipes.

Bikers raise tremendous amounts of money for many charities and local families in need. The positives of the “Biker” community all to often go unoticed by the media and powers that be. I guess old negative stereo typing images of “Bikers” just won’t go away. Maybe it’s the tatoos, leather, patches, dark glasses, and beards that intimidate those that don’t know us. Those that do know us welcome us with open arms. I am soon to be 60 years old and began riding when I was 14, I came from a loving family of “Bikers” that all rode and were professional people. Don’t make the mistake Myrtle Beach has made.
Did you know most “Bikers” have between $20k and $40 k invested in their loud bikes?
Keep the rally dates as they have been.
Respectfully yours,
Cary “POP” Deeter
aka “Detour”


11 Rya Holloway Phillips December 31, 2010 at 2:54 pm

HI Cary,
Thanks for your comment!
I agree with you, about Bikers being from all walks of life. I’ve got tons of friends who love riding, and they range from pilots & lawyers to MC members. I know that bikers host tons of events for charity as well, which is incredibly wonderful. Also, I understand about being judged with outdated ideas, considering I’m heavily tattooed and most people instantly think I’m some crazed loon trying to steal old ladies purses and such, haha- when really I’m nothing like that. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I fully agree with what you’ve said, and hope that the article didn’t make you think otherwise. Although I do understand & respect, what others have said regarding this topic, especially those who live close to the event. For the most part, I wanted to reach out to you and let you know, that the Thunder Beach rally dates are staying the same, for now. The TDC has decided not to give them Columbus Day Weekend, for a variety of reasons. If anything changes on this though, we’ll be sure to post it! 🙂


12 Jeanne Mitchell January 4, 2011 at 7:58 pm

The noise pollution aspect of Thunder Beach makes our Front Beach Road condo unlivable duirng those two weeks a year. Call us spoil sports, but we don’t have to leave town for any other events.