Sunshine, Sand and Seafood – And Lots of Motorcycles and Music, Too! – Make Thunder Beach’s Spring Rally a Helluva Good Time
Words by Walt Lumpkin
Photos by Bill Tomerlin/Elegant Angels Photography
The business card of every event promoter out there should have “No Guts, No Glory” printed on it in big, bold letters. Why? Because it takes a special person to risk their money and time in a venture that, statistically, at least, is pretty likely to lose money and eventually fail.
Thunder Beach Productions owner Joe Biggs is one of the survivors. Which is good news for those who attend and enjoy his two annual Thunder Beach events each year.
“It’s been a pretty crazy 20 years in this business,” Biggs told us during his recent Thunder Beach Spring Rally at Panama City Beach, “with plenty of up and downs, and lots of challenges. But over the several years things have stabilized a bit, and we’ve worked closely with the local business community and the Bay County Tourist Development Council – which has helped.”
Early on, the idea of a motorcycle rally in an area of the Florida Panhandle known to have “the World’s Most Beautiful Beaches” wasn’t a particularly popular one with many businesses and locals. “A lot of folks figured the rally would bring a bad element,” says Biggs, “because that was the conventional wisdom among non-riders and the general public for a lot of years. But over time they saw that the motorcyclists were largely well behaved and respectful – and they also spent money, which is what makes the world go around, right?
“A lot of our attendees have been here before,” adds Biggs. “Maybe when they were kids on vacations with their families, or maybe back when Spring Break was a bigger deal than it is now, or simply as adults, coming to enjoy the area’s amazing beaches – of which there are plenty.”
Over the years the event has expanded and contracted, added and subtracted elements and venues, and this constant attention to improvement seems to be a major factor in the Thunder Beach success story. New businesses have signed on to support the rally, too. When Preston Farrior and Gary Bang, Jr. opened Harley-Davidson of Panama City Beach a few years back they stepped up by giving away a new Harley each Spring and Fall rally during the finals of the Miss Thunder Beach Contest on Saturday nights. This year, The Crossroads was opened across Front Beach Road from Sharkey’s as a new venue for Thunder Beach vendors and a new home for the Best Of The Beach bike show.
From the outset, Biggs’ passion for music has made live entertainment – called the Thunder Beach Concert Series – an integral part of the Thunder Beach experience. He strives to keep the entire event free including musical performances. This Spring, country artist Colt Ford returned for an encore performance and packed Frank Brown Park with the largest crowd ever for a Thunder Beach music event. Over the years, supporting partners have followed Bigg’s lead, and some have even built stages on their properties to facilitate top-quality bands like the Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws, Lita Ford and many others.
“This year went off really well,” Biggs says, “with Colt Ford and Blackstone Cherry bringing in a really nice crowd. It was good for us, and really good for the fans, who loved every minute.”
Motorcycle events and promoters have come and gone, but the Thunder Beach Spring Rally ranks right up there with the best of ‘em – and seems to get better every year. Sunshine, sand and seafood bring riders to Panama City Beach year-round – but especially during Thunder Beach. No guts, no glory, right? 5
Don’t miss the Thunder Beach Autumn Rally, October 23-27. More info is available on their website at thunderbeachproductions.com.