Thunder by the Bay rumbled into Sarasota this month and rolled out an even larger economic impact than the previous year.
The 16th annual motorcycle festival held from Jan. 8, through Jan. 11, spurred a $7.4 million overall economic impact and generated 5,400 room nights in local hotels, according to analysis by Research Data Services Inc. The number of room nights generated this year increased 86% over the 2013 Thunder by the Bay, and the overall economic impact grew 8.7% in 2014.
Out-of-county visitors (the largest boon to a local economy during an event) spent $4.02 million, which was an 8.6% jump over the previous year's event.
"One of the things I try to focus on is keeping it fresh," said Festival Director Lucy Nicandri.
This year's event included a guest appearance from reality show star Paul Teutel Sr. and a performance from Foghat. The event began with a kick-off party at the Francis, an upscale venue in downtown Sarasota.
"That really brought in a crowd that may not have otherwise come to Thunder by the Bay," Nicandri said.
Suncoast Charities for Children, the non-profit organization benefitting from the event, raised more than $100,000 according to conservative calculations provided by Nicandri, who the organization's vice president.
Festival organizers will begin working with hoteliers earlier than in previous years in anticipation of an even larger number of out-of-county and international visitors in next year's event.
"Every year the event continues to grow," Nicandri said.
Scroll down for a video from the action at Thunder by the Bay: