Sandusky Bay Barge Party cancelled

Annual gatherings at the Sandbar are no more
Andy Ouriel
May 15, 2013

Legal issues and the rising cost of liability insurance have shipwrecked a pair of summer parties on Lake Erie. 

Festival organizers have canceled this year’s Sandusky Bay Barge Party, a much-loved, twice-a-summer event that attracts hundreds of boaters and revelers. 

A cancellation message first appeared on the event’s official Facebook page Tuesday afternoon. Event organizer Shaun Bickley later confirmed the posting.

“It’s an 80 percent financial, 15 percent personal and 5 percent total miscellaneous decision,” Bickley said. “We struggled with this decision.”

One barge party alone costs about $10,000, putting the summer’s worth at $20,000. Only five of the 20 sponsors committed to fronting funds for this year’s events, causing a major funding shortfall.

Insurance rates also skyrocketed. All of these developments prompted Bickley to cancel the events.

The barge party is centered on the sandbar, in the lake waters just across from Cedar Point. Event organizers float a barge to the scene, effectively turning it into a floating stage that serves as the party’s centerpiece, offering music and dance contests.

The barge party has become a mainstay of Sandusky summers, and last year’s events were the first to trigger any real controversy.      

Last June, authorities charged Bickley with complicity to sell alcohol without a license and furnishing alcohol to a minor. The charges were later reduced to a single count of disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, after Bickley accepted a plea deal. The arresting agencies were the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s liquor enforcement division.

Bickley paid a $100 fine and served 20 hours of community service.

Additionally, Bickley’s son, Colt, was charged with underage consumption at last year’s event. Authorities later dropped the charges, but Colt still had to attend alcohol classes and write an essay on his experience. Colt, then 16, had been flipping burgers on a small barge when an undercover agent asked to buy a beer. Colt reached into a communal case and sold the agent three beers.

Bickley’s father, Joel, was also cited by the U.S. Coast Guard for operating a ferryboat without a license, although authorities dropped that charge, too. 

It remains to be seen if the barge party will return in 2014, but Bickley’s glad the events ended with a bang.

“We went out on top,” Bickley said.

Friendly chatter 

The Register asked some of its Facebook friends for their opinions on this summer’s barge party being cancelled:

• Paul Matthews: Another freedom taken away by local governments. They don’t have any business butting their nose in something that doesn’t pertain to them. They should take their big boy pants off and grab a beer and chill out.

• John Gibson: This was always a great event: lots of fun, well run, safe, carefree and enjoyable. I guess certain powers that be can’t stand anyone having a harmless good time on the water.

• Steve Thomas: Kinda afraid to have a picnic this summer. Have to much fun, someone will shut you down. Sad time this outcry has come to that someone puts in that kind of effort. I suppose bike week will be next.

• Kendra Van Ness Aldrich: Wow, one less day of standing in pissy water, drinking beer and acting like idiots. What is the world coming to?

• Doug Ash: If government agencies are not going to make any money at a gathering of fun-loving folks, chances are it will be shut down.

• Michael Saylor: We can all still have a sandbar party. Someone bring loud speakers.



There you go again

Friendly Chatter speaks volumes for the priorities of Sanduskians.

Raoul Duke

The Man, shuttin' it down. The Man needs to learn to party!


My priorities are earning a good living, then enjoying my free time as I wish. This event wasn't banned outright, but we see how there are many ways to shut down events. Insurance and legal worries. Looks like the citizenry will have to organize and party from a grassroots level. That might make it even more fun.




If the gov't can't find a way too tax the "fun", it just simply shuts it down. That's why they call it "SIN-TAX".


This doesnt sound like big brother caused the pullout, its sounds like the sponsors and insurance company forced it. The Barge Party is a very high risk party for all of those involved. Recently even with bad PR. Alleged alcohol sales of a minor, nudity,fights, drunk boaters and eventually drunk drivers. I think maybe pulling the plug on the party was a wise decision by the promotors, before there ends up being a tragic moment.
In a much smaller magnitude, look at the hay ride from the Mason Jar to other bars, the wagons flips, numerous were injured and lawsuits just keep coming. There are money hungry lawyers out there just waiting for a mishap and I am sure the promotors, sponsors and insurance companies recognize this.
I am think this is a wise choice on their behalf...

Peachy Keen

Glad to see this! It was nothing but the usual trashy doings of the local low life culture of tanked up losers around here! I mean, just look at the color of the water in the photo above! Disgusting! Fewer drunk boaters and inebriated jet ski operators will DEFINITELY be a good thing.

The Bizness

I would hardly say that the barge party was harmless fun, and it is a stretch to say government shut it down. It appears lack of sponsors and insurance companies are the ones to blame.

I had went out to it a few time, and it was not too much fun for me. Just seemed like it was all older people and teenagers. Neither of which should have been acting the way they were.


No one should have been acting that way.

Economic realities, not some conspiracy of killjoys, shut it down. It's hard to shed any tears over it - it's far more sad to contemplate how many people in our society think it constitutes the best use of their time and resources.


I agree that the goverment has gotten way out of controll and something like this . And now thats taken away
And as far as bike week in concerned I dont have a probelm with that either so long as they dont get drunk and cause problems with there loud bikes at 1 or 2 in the a.m .
Its disrupting the town and waking folks up at that hour when they have to get up and go to work .
The police can not be everywhere and these bikers know this and In my eye the only thing bike week is , is another reason to get drunk and stupid and disrespectfull in the Sandusky area


"In my eye the only thing bike week is , is another reason to get drunk and stupid and disrespectfull in the Sandusky area"

Let me start off by saying in NO WAY am I a biker, I've never been on a motorcycle in my life. With that out of the way, are you aware of the REVENUE Bike Week brings to Sandusky and the surrounding areas? These folks come from all across the midwest (and country for that matter) to spend their money not only in Sandusky but all over the north coast. They stay in our hotels, buy our gas, eat in our restaurants , ride on our ferry lines to spend days at the islands, and the list goes on.

Now back to the barge party.....Despite others negative views on the barge parties, they too, brought a lot of revenue to this area. People would bring boats from all over to our waters. They would stay in our hotels, buy our gas, buy our beer, pay dockage fees, etc. If our city was smart, they would organize something SIMILIAR to the privately run barge parties of the past few years. Do not take that to the extreme but simply something to draw boaters to our area and spend their money here a few times a year. We do absolutely nothing to utliize our shoreline and I think it's a shame. At least Mr. Bickley built something people around the entire north coast actually looked foward to each year. That's a step in the right direction. PIB has Christmas in July. Kelley's Island has Island Fest. Sandusky has Bike Week, which some of you are complaining about.

Turst me folks, this area needs some more positive things happening and especially needs to capitalize on its resources such as the lakeshore.

Sharin' Johnson

No one has ever shown Bike Week is a net plus for government budgets. The cost to local taxpayers just about equals what it brings in, not counting the noise and hassles. Move it to Huron.

The Bizness

I don't mind the idea of the barge party but they was just too much underage drinking, drunken boat driving, and other issues that make it a liability.

I get the economic benefit from it but at least now there wont be 500 gallons (or more) of pee going directly into the bay.


- The Bizness

An aerial photograph would probably show a big yellow ring.


That's why the water is green in the photo.


An overly yellowish green.

Whiskey Tango F...

LMAO! People in downtown Sandusky sleeping and going to work!!! Mr. Bickley came to the same conclusion that every business, bar, restuarant, and most of the boaters already know. If the slums and ghetto trash don't deter you from Sandusky, the local authorities will. Hope to see more of these articles covering the local political sabotage that keeps Sandusky in the hole. Sorry to see all that hard work and time go to waste.

big mind in a small town's picture
big mind in a s...

Very well stated, Gene!


Yeah, yeah...and I can remember when Put-in-Bay wasn't a corporate driven greed factory, too. Just a fun place to go hang out for a weekend, whether you pitched a tent or docked your boat. Now it's like a lil tiny shiny Las Vegas without the gambling. Freakin' greed and people who don't like fun.


Amen to the greed part!!! The tragic part is the greediest people are held in high regard by the powers to be!!!!!!!


Awe man, that stinks! I love swimming in pee from the bottom-feeders of the area!

Erie Countian

I really wish the "big revenue events" that we have around here each summer did not have to include such MAJOR boozing it up and all the drunken, improper behavior on the part of so many idiots! Cowboy is spot on when he uses the description "bottom feeders"!


Bummer! I was really looking forward to the Barge party.. as for you nay-sayers... I wouldn't be surprised if any of you have actually ever been to one.. the Barge party & bike week is actually some of the funnest activities this town offers.. If you don't enjoy these activities... DON'T GO! But.. perhaps if you got out from behind your computer screen you might find either of these a great time.. or maybe not.. chances are you would still sit in the background and complain that people were smiling to big...smh.. RIP to the Barge party!! :(

The Bizness

I have been to them and I can honestly say I am surprised no one has been killed at one. If there was a way to do it without the amount of under age drinking and drunk driving then it would be a lot better.


We do own a boat and work vary hard to afford the hobby. We are also all about haveing a goodtime on the water. We have been to 2 of the first Partys they had before it got out of control. Everything that is said here is true. There are no restrooms so ware do you think everyone is peeing and yes the other end also we have seen it, It is a huge toliet. It was only a matter of time before someone drawned or was killed. Look what happen at the Bay with the murder, drunk punks with huge egos.


Bottom feeder? Explain!


Maybe you will understand this term.... "Low life". You see, most of us responsible boaters blow by that pee, porn and disease infested sand bar and head to the north side of KI. If we want to see that kind of behavior we will watch TRUETV.

Sitting In The ...

Do you bring the rest of the Village People with you when you go to "KI"?. Not to mention you spelled the channel "TruTv" incorrectly. If you try harder next time you might actually fool a couple people into believing you have an IQ over Fifty.


I guess that's because I don't watch that immature channel...........but I'm guessing you do. Ha ha ha ha ha!


: )