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.



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...


Sorry to hear that there will be no 2013 Barge Party! As far as all the negative stuff, from what I've read online there has never been any major incident at any of the Barge Parties. They've been around since 2008. 1000 boats, 6000 partiers--2009. It's significant when you can just Google "barge party" and Sandusky's Barge Party pops up.

With such a large presence of LE and the Coast Guard the idea of widespread underage drinking and driving drunk doesn't seem likely.

I will say one thing, those pole dancers on the barge were pretty cool!!

Hang in there Shaun! And Thanks! Maybe more sponsors will step up!


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.