Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A More Refined RUMBLE

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A More Refined RUMBLE

Article excerpt

Thunder by the Bay ready to roll through Sarasota

Thunder by the Bay, Sarasota's answer to Bike Week in Daytona, tries to be a lot less raunchy and a little more refined. More than 40,000 motorcyclists and fans will crowd downtown streets this weekend, but the 16th annual event began Thursday night with a small $100-per-person fundraiser at the Francis Ballroom.

The "Kick-Start Party" featured a gourmet buffet, along with whiskey, wine and cigar tasting. Servers wore stiff white coats and hostesses wore little black dresses. Guests wore everything from the evening clothes you see downtown to the black leather vests you'd expect at a bike rally.

Cindy Smith, a chic Harley-Davidson rider from Ohio, enjoyed the sturgeon, pulled pork sliders and a glass of Caparzo Sangiovese. The evening fit her idea of Thunder by the Bay. "It's more upscale, if that makes any sense," said Smith, who is visiting Sarasota with her husband. "The area is beautiful and it's kept up beautifully. Siesta Key is amazing."

Dan Clark and his wife, Harley riders from Clermont, have been visiting Thunder by the Bay since 2005. They also enjoy smaller motorcycle festivals in places such as Leesburg, Panama City and Sarasota. On Thursday night, Clark wore slacks and a dark blazer -- decorated with a 9/11 tribute to the World Trade Center.

"We heard about Sarasota from friends -- we meet a lot of friends here," he said. "We listen to the bands -- we don't do a lot of drinking -- and just enjoy the event."

Best and worst times

Lucy Nicandri, vice president of Suncoast Charities for Children, started Thunder by the Bay as a tiny fundraiser for about 100 riders.

She laughs at her original name for the event. "Ride So Others Can Ride." Not so catchy. A more thunderous name helped the rally grow into a January tradition for bikers throughout Florida and across the country.

This year, there will be a classic rock concert by Foghat -- perhaps you remember "Slow ride, take it easy ..." -- and appearances by the mustachioed Paul Teutul of the TV show "American Chopper."

Nicandri, also a Harley rider, put away her leathers to dress up for Thursday night. Between hugs and handshakes, she shared the best and worst of Thunder by the Bay. …

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