Chairman’s Message – March 2016

Ron Soto, SDMA's Chairman

Ron Soto, SDMA’s Chairman

As many of you know, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding one of downtown Sarasota’s annual events, Thunder by the Bay. Produced by Suncoast ­Charities for Children, the motorcycle festival ­raises ­millions of dollars for special needs ­individuals and families in our community, and in one weekend this past January, the event had an estimated $9 million ­economic impact on our community.

What you may not realize is that because of this ongoing controversy surrounding Thunder by the Bay, as of right now…
…the City of Sarasota has put a moratorium on all events in 2017.

That’s right—events that usually are planned up to a year in ­advance and always draw thousands of people downtown to our streets and our parks cannot be scheduled for next year.

Did you happen to attend the Sarasota Seafood & Music Festival presented by the SDMA in late January? With literally thousands of attendees, the two-day event was a home run for the SDMA, thanks to Bill Kinney and Paragon Events, the festival’s producers.

It is events like the seafood festival—and countless others throughout the year—that raise funds for the SDMA. And where do these funds go? Back into our city to do the things that, in other communities, are typically paid for by the city, but here in Sarasota are not.

As an example, this past holiday season, the SDMA refurbished all of our Christmas lights on the street poles, and we also purchased new ornaments. And for the upcoming holiday season, we have purchased a brand new, 30-foot Christmas tree for Five Points Park that will replace the 30-year-old tree that truly has seen better days.

SDMA also funded the development of the new city map and, within the last 18 months, launched The VOICE of the Downtown Merchants—two very important marketing tools that support our merchants and promote our downtown community.
Without our events and festivals, the SDMA will not have the funds to make downtown Sarasota a more appealing and inviting place to visit, dine or shop.

Personally, I can remember when downtown used to be the only place to shop in Sarasota. And I also was here when ­downtown ­became a ghost town with the development of Gulf Gate’s ­shopping centers and the mall in South Sarasota.

I cannot imagine coming to Sarasota as a tourist during the winter months with absolutely nothing to do here…can you?

In a recent conversation with Bill Kinney, who has produced many art shows and festivals in downtown Sarasota and throughout the state, Bill told me, ”Cities all over Florida are trying to get special events to come to their communities to stimulate activity.”

And I ask you this: Why is our city placing a moratorium on events in downtown Sarasota that stimulate activity?

Here’s the bottom line: These events and festivals are good for downtown business and good for our merchants.
Just ask Sully over at Patrick’s 1481—the recent art show held on Main Street between Orange Avenue and Links Avenue was “outstanding” for his business; the restaurant was jam-packed both Saturday and Sunday.

If you like our special events and festivals and want them to ­continue, click here to send us an e-mail at

I will be going before the city commissioners again to fight this moratorium. Yes, there is strength in numbers, and I am counting on all of you to join me.

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One Response to Chairman’s Message – March 2016

  1. jim lampl says:

    “…..motorcycle festival raises millions of dollars for special needs individuals? ”
    Hyperbole or fact?

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