Amid controversy and cold weather, Thunder By The Bay continues into 19th year
By ANDREA SHAY
Despite the cold climate and change of venue, many motorcycle and music enthusiasts braved the weather to attend the 19th annual Thunder By The Bay last weekend.
The event has typically been held in downtown Sarasota, near Sarasota Bay and the downtown marina, but this year the organizers left Sarasota for Lakewood Ranch amid controversy. Although many downtown merchants and citizens have enjoyed the bike festival in previous years, others complained that it brought too much noise or negatively impacted their businesses.
Early in the day, the weather brought nothing but rain, wind and gray skies, which prevented the event’s opening band, Twinkle and Rock Soul Radio, from playing. As the day progressed, however, the skies began to clear, and even though the temperatures stayed low, the next performers — Diary of an Ozzman, an Ozzy Osbourne tribute band — took to the stage to kick off the festivities with live music. The band played classics like “War Pigs” and “Bark at the Moon” to fans who rocked outdoors amid the cold.
Both the weather and the controversy likely prevented more people from attending this year’s Thunder By The Bay, held at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch. Nanci Hemingway, a Bradenton resident who attended the festival for the first time this year, said that although the conflict surrounding the event’s move did not keep her away, she and her boyfriend, Rob Brown, left the grounds after only a half-hour due to the inclement weather. The couple came to the event to purchase Harley Davidson clothing and hear live music, but left well before any music started.
Hemingway expressed criticism of downtown Sarasota for pushing the venue out of town, though she did like this year’s setup at the sports complex. She suggested that those who complained about holding Thunder By The Bay downtown should instead get used to the noise and crowds of festivals once in awhile. “It’s part of the Florida vacation experience; it’s part of living here,” she said.
She also felt like the downtown area could be bringing about its own demise by refusing to hold popular events like this one. “If you want an area to thrive, there are so many places to go and listen to music,” she said, illustrating that most people will flock to locations with live entertainment rather than be loyal to an area with nothing going on.
The day warmed up slightly as the second band, Keep the Faith — a Bon Jovi tribute band — began their set, though temperatures plummeted after sunset when the day’s final performers played to the loyal music fans who stayed well into the night. Sunday was more temperate than the previous day, and festival-goers packed the stage to see headliner Blue Oyster Cult.