Pasco News

Sponsor loss threatens end to Cotee River Bike Fest

NEW PORT RICHEY — A tradition in October since 2005, the Cotee River Bike Fest will go on hiatus for 2013.

In fact, the chances the festival will ever return are slim after some sponsors dropped out, according to Dan Sullivan, the events and marketing coordinator for West Pasco Chamber of Commerce.

Last year’s event drew tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts and spectators to downtown New Port Richey and other sites over four days the second weekend of October.

After losing about $25,000 in sponsorship money, Chamber of Commerce officials searched for replacement sponsors for the 2013 edition but couldn’t make up the shortfall. The chamber would have to raise about $50,000 total to put on the show.

In 2005, the first Cotee River Bike Fest attracted about 20,000 people over two days, about twice the projected crowd. Business owners, especially motels, said they got a boost.

The event expanded each succeeding year with ever larger crowds.

Despite the popularity of the event, the bike fest was never that profitable for the chamber but consumed an inordinate amount of staff time and resources. The event netted roughly $10,000 for the business organization last year, Sullivan estimated.

So organizers pulled the plug on the show this year.

“It doesn’t make good business sense to run a fundraising event” that could wind up losing quite a bit of money this year, Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chip Wichmanowski said Thursday.

“It was not going to be profitable at all,” Wichmanowski said, adding, however, “We would love to bring the event back if we can.”

A few remnants of Bike Fest could continue this October as independent events, such as a poker run, organizers noted.

The bike fest took up a lot of time and resources of the staff, however, Wichmanowski said.

Sullivan and others can focus more on the many other events the chamber stages, Wichmanowski noted.

Up next is the 2013 Ambassador Catch the Buzz Spelling Bee, to be held 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at “The Hive,” also known as Spartan Manor, 6121 Massachusetts Ave. The spelling bee is a fundraiser for education.

Staff can refocus more on boosting chamber membership dinners as well. It has already is lining up sponsors for the next Business Development Week, in January. Plans are taking shape for the Chasco Fiesta golf tournament for 2014.