SARASOTA, Fla. - Organizers for Thunder by the Bay and their many volunteers have finished setting up at the Hyatt Regency to kick off the weekend with Friday night’s "Born to be Wild" party.
The 16th Annual Thunder by the Bay takes over downtown Sarasota this weekend and it's said to bring in thousands from all over the country and overseas as well.
"Last year we had a $6.4 million impact, and over 3,000 room nights booked. This year all indications are it's even going to be bigger," says director Lucy Nicandri.
The festival raises money for Suncoast Charities for Children. And this year, Thunder by the Bay teamed up with the Patterson Foundation's Legacy of Valor to honor our veterans. "On Sunday we're doing a Legacy of Valor ride, which starts at the Bayfront and is going to Sarasota National Cemetery and Paul Tuttle, Sr. from Orange County Choppers is joining an honor guard to lead that ride," says Nicandri.
The festivities began Thursday night and continue until Sunday. A ‘Light up the Night’ bike show is scheduled for Saturday night and there will be a downtown festival with live bands and over 80 vendors all day Saturday and Sunday.
Local businesses ABC 7 spoke to had nothing but good things to say about the festival.
"We always look forward to any type of event downtown. Highlight the beautiful downtown Main Street in Sarasota," says Scott Carpenter of Penzey’s Spices.
And new shops believe it will be great for business. "We feel like we're going to do pretty well. We have a lot of upscale whiskeys and brandys, we've got a nice selection of wines, we're gonna keep a lot of stuff that's ready to go," says Robert Kay of Vom Fass Sarasota.
Downtown locals say they loved the festival last year and it is definitely something to see.
"That's my thing. We talk about motorcycles all day long," says resident David Campiona.
There will be numerous road closings in the downtown area throughout the weekend. Details on those closures can be found HERE.