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.
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.