Can you hear it? The thunder of thousands of people descending upon Sarasota, some coming by car, most coming by bike, but all returning to the place where it all began. Thunder By The Bay is returning home with a new date, new venue, and renewed efforts to retain its status as a premiere motorcycle festival in the nation. They are celebrating a huge milestone this year, their 20th anniversary! The masses are coming and they are bringing their tourist dollars to infuse Sarasota and the surrounding area with an economic boost and will be providing crucial funding for Suncoast Charities for Children, for whom the event directly benefits. Thunder By The Bay is one of the largest festivals Sarasota has hosted in the past, and by all accounts, this year is going to be a record-breaker.
Location and timing; most people would attest to the importance of these two concepts and when planning a world-class motorcycle festival whose success will directly impact children and families that she knows, Lucy Nicandri, Executive Director of Suncoast Charities for Children is making sure Thunder By The Bay stays true to its roots. Lakewood Ranch was a perfect venue for last year’s fun, after TBB grew out of its former Bayfront location. Situated close to I-75, and with state-of-the-art amenities, Lakewood Ranch, and a gracious Manatee County were willing to step in and fill a need, and the logistics seemed perfect. Enter Mother Nature and a soggy, cold weekend dampened attendance in a major way. With a myriad of events that Suncoast Charities for Children hosts throughout the year including Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix, Holiday Boat Parade of Lights, the New Year’s Eve Fireworks and more they are keenly aware of the mostly beautiful but sometimes temperamental weather we experience around the Suncoast. When scheduling opportunities opened in the month of February, a predictably moderate time of year in Florida, Lucy and the gang jumped at the chance to push the date of the event later into the Spring. Unfortunately, the changes did not coincide with venue openings in the Lakewood Ranch area, hence the move back to Sarasota.
This year’s Thunder By The Bay will be a whirlwind of events held from February 15-18 along the Fruitville corridor, mostly at the Sarasota Fair Grounds, with happenings also scheduled down on Main Street. And that folks, is what they call capitalizing on location. As a tourist or biker attending the event, can you imagine a better passage into Sarasota? Centrally-located to local gems like Siesta Key and St. Armand’s will insure their selfie photos will look like a well-healed travel brochure. New area hotels, restaurants, a revitalized Downtown and February’s moderate temperatures will confirm what most people have been saying for some time…Thunder By The Bay belongs in Sarasota, and, it is coming home.
A cool feature added to this year’s offerings includes full service camping at the fairgrounds for $35 a day for those willing to rough it a bit. In exchange, there will be no need to call Uber if the libations are flowing. Kicking things off on February 15th, a “Born to Be Wild” party will be happening at Michaels on East Ballroom. The “Bikes on Main” Block Party continues Friday night on Main Street with free admission beginning at 7:00 P.M. Twinkle & Rock Soul Radio along with The Billy Rice Band will hit the mainstage coinciding with a “Light up the Night” Bike Show. Saturday’s festivities include the Car & Motorcycle “Ride for Riches, “and the Thunder By The Bay Motorcycle Festival from 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M at the Sarasota Fairgrounds. Admission for the all-day event is free and activities include the Thunder Tap Room with Craft Beer, plenty of vendors, Biker Rodeo, Stunt Rider Shows and more. The mainstage will feature Vegas McGraw, Tim McGraw Tribute act and a host of other crowd-pleaser tribute bands. The Motorcycle Festival continues Sunday from 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. with an 18 Class Bike Show, Miss Thunder By The Bay Contest and live musical acts including Soul Circus Cowboys, Alter Eagles, and featured headliner, The Bobby Friss Band.
What Suncoast Charities for Children does for thousands of Suncoast residents is impressive. Monies raised by Thunder By The Bay fund the Suncoast Foundation which has constructed buildings in the Sarasota-Venice-Bradenton areas that are valued at more than $20 million. The buildings house non-profits like The Haven, Sarasota County Special Olympics, and Children First. Special needs citizens lives are enriched, and day-to-day tasks made easier for families and care-givers by these and other community outreach services. Suncoast Charities for Children hosts several events throughout the year, providing admission free activities for families to enjoy. They rely on the sponsorship and donations of the community to keep services and buildings up to par. This year there will be several locations to make cash donations located throughout the festival for those wanting to add a few extra dollars to the cause. Can you imagine the impact this simple addition could have if even a portion of the attendees there follow suit and empty their pockets of a coins and a few bucks?
This and other crucial decisions are the details Lucy Nicandri and her staff of two have been working on this past year. They take their stewardship of this event to heart and make sure everything is worked out in favor of the special needs citizens who directly benefit from Thunder By The Bay. Lucy wants to thank the folks of Manatee County for their graciousness and is grateful to those who helped facilitate their new home at the Sarasota Fairgrounds. Chances are you may have seen first-hand the assistance Suncoast Charities for Children has provided for your own family, or perhaps that of a neighbor or friend. Thunder By The Bay is your opportunity to celebrate a hometown victory, because the bikes are coming back! Sarasota is ready for the thunder.
For more information on all the events at Thunder By The Bay, please visit their website at http://www.thunderbythebay.org
Photos courtesy of Thunder By The Bay Facebook Page, Twitter and Sarasota Post