Bay Co. Recovers from Karen Impact

By: Sanika Dange Email
By: Sanika Dange Email
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Tropical Storm Karen never made landfall, but it still pounded local business.

The threat of the storm killed the attendance at a number of local events, included the fall Thunder Beach Rally.

Bay County Tourist Development Council officials hope the rest of the fall events can help the fall season rebound.

Last week Panama City Beach was preparing for one of its signature fall events: The Thunder Beach rally.

But reports of a potential visit from Tropical Storm Karen hurt the event.

Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman says, "We did have a group of people out here but not the numbers we were expecting or that we've seen in the past year at the autumn rally."

Bay County TDC Executive Director Dan Rowe explains, "Whenever there was a named storm in the Gulf, you know, visitors are concerned, as soon as they put a name to the storm. And the hotels I spoke to, a number of them were fielding calls. Some of them had cancellations."

Karen also claimed the first ever Thunder Beach Jam as a victim.

The promoter canceled Saturday night's concert at Aaron Bessant because of poor turnout Friday night.

Thunder Beach organizers canceled a 200 mile charity run scheduled for Sunday.

One local business that did thrive was the Harley Davidson dealership.

On average Harley Davidson sells 60 bikes a month, but in the past two weekends alone, they've sold more than a hundred.

Harley Davidson General Manager Randy Welter says, "We far exceeded our expectations. Far exceeded. Friday and Saturday we probably had 5,000 to 6,000 people in the store at a time so it was very, very, very busy."

This was the first rally Harley Davidson offered rentals to Thunder Beach visitors.

Of the 37 bikes reserved, only 5 were canceled.

But most other Thunder Beach-related event bit the dust, the promoters hoping weather insurance will help them recoup losses.

To the west, organizers also pulled the plug on the Annual Destin Seafood Festival and Sandestin's Habitat for Humanity Run.

The TDC is preparing for this weekend's Pirates of the High Seas Festival at Pier Park, featuring Emblem 3, Time Flies, and DJ Alex aAngelo.

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