Published February 14, 2012
Panama City Beach, Fla. is attempting to break the Guinness Book of World Record for the Largest Bikini Parade and knock Australia off its throne. But not everyone in the city is happy about it.
The event, on March 6, is taking place at one of the most popular spring break destinations in the country, known for its golden sands, clear waters, and of course bikinis.
But some city leaders say the idea to have hundreds of women parade around in a two-piece swimsuit would devolve into "Girls Gone Wild" on the beach.
“We’ll have a lot of college kids and there’s a lot of hormones flowing out there. It’s very volatile and it doesn’t take a whole lot for things to go sour,” said Panama City Beach city council member Ken Nelson.
The Bay County Tourist Development Council, which came up with the idea to promote the area and get more tourists to the beach, is defending the event. They need at least 358 girls in bikinis to break Australia’s Gold Coast record.
“Panama City Beach claims to be a real fun beach destination. It’s a great way for us to do something fun that’s just a lot of fun to highlight as a beach destination,” said Dan Rowe executive director of the Bay County Tourist Development Council.
Nelson says he first became concerned about the bikini parade when the Panama City Beach Police raised their fears that they would be understaffed and couldn’t handle the event.
“The police department’s first fear was that this has a real good opportunity to become x-rated real quick,” said Nelson.
But organizers believe the event will go on without a hitch.
“I understand the concerns for that but I don’t think its that type of event. It’s just fun and it’s a safe event. We’re going to have security and we just want to have a good time,” said Melissa Porcelli marketing director of StudentUniverse Media who are helping put on the event.
But the Panama City Beach councilman doesn't agree. “We just need to clean up our image and this bikini parade had the makings of not doing us very good,” said Nelson.
Chief of Police Drew Whitman says the police department is planning for some issues and are making sure it goes smoothly.
“They’ve hired their own security for it and we’ll have our police officers down there in trucks, which they’re paying for out of their budget and not of the city’s budget,” said Whitman.
The TDC is funding the event and is spending $40,000 to promote the parade out of a $250,000 spring break budget. This comes from a $8 million marketing budget for spring break promotions.
“This is one small element of how we make Panama City Beach great on a year round basis,” said Rowe.
The Bikini Parade will tale place at Harpoon Harry’s. Check- in and registration begins at 9am and women will have to wear a two-piece bikini and be at least 18-years-old or have legal guardian approval. The parade starts at 11:30am and participants will have to walk a mile on the beach.
“It’s really advantageous for them to make sure that it does go smoothly especially since I brought it to everyone’s attention. If it goes sour then everything that I’ve said comes true and it makes them look really bad,” said Nelson.