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!


: )

Erie Countian

Ha! BrightEyes, just because some of us may not enjoy YOUR type of "funnest activities" doesn't mean we "hide behind our computer screens", nor does it mean we don't like to have fun. Fun doesn't always need to include getting totally wasted, driving drunk, acting like an idiot and other nasty, low life behavior. I'm not saying EVERYONE who attends these events behaves like that, but there's a LOT of it happening and no one can deny it.


Makes sense!


You are correct it doesn't mean 'getting totally wasted, drive drunk, or act like an idiot and other nasty, low life behavior' ... I really enjoy these activities and don't do any of these things! I drink moderately and responsibly occasionaly, and enjoy the atmosphere and music along with watching everyone else have a great time... there are people who don't act responsibly everywhere.. doesnt mean you have to act like they do or let it ruin your good time...


Don't eat yellow snow... oh wait


Don't drink yellow water.


...Don't swim in yellow pee it would not be good for me, lol.


Why don't they just move it to the Chesapeake marina and make it a downtown event!!!!!!hello people!!!!!


I can not see why they couldnt have the barge party , now that to me is something that can be controlled , All they would have to do is place a temp fence around the area and make sure signs are posted that yoou will get your I.D check point at the opening of the fence leading into the area where the barge party is going to be held .Then that would make it harder for underaged people from getting in . Its not going to completely stop it , but it will slow it done

looking around

Why does the "barge party" need insurance, organizers and sponsors? Boats go to the sandbar all the time on weekends, just keep it simple BYOB & food, no tee shirt sales. Find a local DJ that is willing to bring some sound equipment and have a fun afternoon boat trip, tips appreciated. Pass the word on the date of the supposed event and no one is in charge or responsible. Someone gets stupid and busted they are on their own. If the authorities want to talk to the organizers just look at them like they are stupid and tell them there are no organizers. Lake Havasu has done it that way for years!


Wonder his insurance didn't quadruple after the stupid stunts Bickley pulled last year.

Sitting In The ...

That's exactly what's wrong with this country everyone is always judging others. I say go ahead and judge me because I could honestly careless what others think. Because truth be told the people criticizing me aren't half as important as they think they are. As long as it legal these people judging me can kiss the fattest part of my......


Ha ha ha ha ha and you're just the kind of person who probably ruined it for all the rest of the urination specialists at the toilet party........ha ha ha ha ha!


Seems like Budweiser, Miller Brewing, and Depends should get together and sponsor the party!!!

The Bizness

Hahahah every swam in an adult diaper? You'd be sure to drown with that extra weight.

this whole 'cancelling' claim could be a way to drum up sponsorship.


Joe Francis would be a more likely sponsor, if he wasn't broke. It appeals to his target audience.


It will go on again this year ....didn't he threaten to cancel last year? And the year before? He laughs all the way to the bank.


Not sure what he takes to the bank, there is no charge to go, it is illgal for him to sell beer, shouldnt be selling food to public off a barge, no restrooms at all. Other then the band, time and what every dum thing he dose to get himself in trouble, there is no money to take to the bank.


Oh you can take it to the bank one of Sandusky's best con-men is laughing all the way to the bank


Buh-bye! I know of one BIG BOY that is probably crying about this. (Waaaaa) Real big tears at that. Some boys just never grew up. Scared of getting old? Must be~ when you want to hang around with your kids and their friends and try to act their age and ...........................You're not!

Matt Easterhold

I'm sure the Bickley's will find another way to get arrested this summer so they can stay in the news, seems they get arrested every summer for alcohol related incidents. Might as well make it 4 years in a row.


Isn't this sorta what happen in Huron with the Water Festival. Things go out of hand and it was ended. Then Riverfest came and it is extremely controlled and it continues.

Another example was a few months ago and the high school dance held. It got very bad with dancing style and the high school principal removed the offending students and when they hung around the school parking lot the police moved them on their way.

This is like other things....the few cause the changes or end to things for others. We all saw it in school a certain person or group just has to go way out beyond the bounds and ultimately ruins it for everyone else. Happens in school life and adult life.


Beer, booty, and music. There isn't to much better than that. You will have stuck up snobby people hating. Everyday every where you go. Why should this be any different


GOOD RIDDANCE! Only alcoholics and drunk boater trash support this disaster in the making. Only a short matter of time before some drunk boating trash showing off plows into the barge or dozens of boats showing off. At one time, this could have been carried out easily with few problems. It is NOT "THE MAN" out to ruin anything. It is a nation of selfish self-centered people with no respect for anything or anyone else especially the teen to twenty-seomthing crowd.

There is a great deal of TRUTH to parents of every generation shaking their heads at the behavior of the next. It is because every generation has gotten looser with their morals and behavior. Ethics and integrity are four-letter words to almost everyone under 40 and certainly under 30.

When the differences between generations a century ago was showing a half-inch more ankle, the effects were minor. The difference between a barge party in the 40's and 50's and last year is beyond night and day

the REALITY is that ITS END WAS NEAR regardless. Recent ones not only destroyed any grey area of safe legal fun but stretched the black/white limt beyond the breaking point.



Besides the whole notion is MORONIC. It is not even remotely like holding a large drinking-centered party on land where one can drive, walk, crawl, ride, bicycle, even lay down and sleep in the bushes. ONE WAY EXIT - DRUNK BOATING. the only ones really upset are the trash that can't boat without being wasted


When I was a kid ( and I'm only 33) we grew up on the sandbar. It was all local families gathered and you knew almost everyone. On the weekdays if you went there you might be the only boat which was nice. Now I can't take my 5 year old daughter their on the weekend because instead of sitting on sand enjoying nature and family your trying not to step on broken littered lawn chairs,beer cans, bottles, and having to listen to someone else's obnoxious blaring boat radio. Your radio doesn't have to be turned all the way up for people to notice you. Your awesomeness radiates from you and knowone can keep their eyes of of your coolness anyhow. The tribal tattoos from 15 years ago prove your awesome. Also have that ugly, trashy, lady your with wear the skimpiest "bathing suit" she can find. I want to see her fake tan so badly, and nine times out of ten the women in these suits have no "business" being in them. Also when you swear do it loudly. This is what I want my 5 year old daughter hearing from you. If you want kids to hear and see your behavior bring them out with you on "your weekend" with them. Don't get me wrong I used to party all the time and my buddies and I would it out at the sandbar occasionally of the Lyman and have some beers and throw a frisbee but we did it in "good taste". Maybe some of you recognize my nickname on here and know that I used to have a very "good time" but I would like to believe I was always family friendly when in public places. Good riddance to the barge party. I even have many friends who liked it, but it seems to have more than its share of trashy middle agers and 30 something's staring at your 18 year old daughter and her friends in their bikinis that you brought out with you because your the cool parents. I was actually almost hoping someone got hurt out their as I figured that was what it was going to take to shut this down. If Bickley wants to host a party with his big awesome speakers and a stripper pole he can do it in his backyard Or open his own "club" locally to compete with the Tea House. The girls would look the same though.


I'll just sum it up--there are a lot of people out there who are alcoholics, and neither they nor their family will acknowledge it.