By most accounts the 2013 fall motorcycle rally here on the Grand Strand was a success. Beautiful weather seems to be getting most of the credit.
Taylor Damonte of Coastal Carolina University’s Center for Resort Tourism confirmed in a Sun News article that reservations in hotels and campsites were about the same as last year, but cited a six percent increase in vacation rental homes during the rally. Kenneth Hucks, owner of Cypress Camping Resort in Socastee agreed his numbers were “about the same as last year” but he sees the rallies bouncing back and expects to see his business benefit in the future as a result. The campground, which also welcomes church groups and campers of all types year-round, is gaining a reputation as one of the most motorcycle-friendly campgrounds in the area. In addition to having free motorcycle trailer parking, Cypress Camping Resort allows guests to ride their motorcycles (respectfully) directly to their campsite instead of having to leave them at the proverbial door like most campgrounds here do.
Leslye Beaver, owner of both Beaver Bar locations in Murrells Inlet also credits Mother Nature saying, “Great weather makes for a great rally! Good weather, numbers are up; bad weather, numbers are down.” Beaver, who also has a Beaver Bar location in Ormond Beach, Fla. near Daytona Beach, and her crew only had a moment to catch their breath after this rally before heading to Florida for the Daytona Beach area’s Biketoberfest, which officially starts today (Thursday) and runs through Sunday, according to www.DaytonaChamber.com.
Sarah George, spokesperson for Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson and the Harley Shop at the Beach in North Myrtle Beach couldn’t give me specific percentages, but assured me, “things were definitely up over last fall as far as attendance and business numbers. [The number of participating] vendors were about the same, but we definitely saw more people.” Also good news was that many of the people she met were giving the rally and the area another chance. Thousands of riders stopped coming to the rallies after Myrtle Beach city officials tried to do away with the events. George said, “I talked to several people who hadn’t come in years who decided to come back.” In addition to “beautiful weather”, George believes, “People are starting to realize it’s coming back.” And she credited “…increased awareness and new activities and events” for helping to draw bikers back in. When I asked for an example, she mentioned the Cruise the Loop poker run that I featured in my Sept. 26 column.
The 90-mile long free poker run is hosted by the Suck, Bang, Blow biker bar and Bike Week MB, a bike week marketing effort created by NextMedia that is dedicated to rebuilding the rallies. I talked to MB Bike Week’s Program Director, Mark Krom, to get his take on the ride and the rally in general. He said, “We’re very pleased with the results. All of the businesses we’re working with showed nice increases…and, the general feedback we’re getting on our Facebook site is very positive.” (Search “Bike Week MB” on Facebook.com to visit the page.) According to Krom, during last year’s fall rally about 70 riders took part in SBB’s annual poker run. This year, after teaming up with MB Bike Week to create the extended Cruise the Loop ride, attendance tripled to more than 250. The first Cruise the Loop ride took place during the 2013 spring motorcycle rally – historically a much larger event - and an estimated 300 motorcycles participated, so the fall rally participation was much greater in proportion to the rallies themselves. Krom went on to say, “We’re already making plans for the spring rally. Our challenge now is going to be how to manage an even bigger ride. We could see as many as 500 to 600 motorcycles so we may have to look at splitting the ride up.” Because of the success, Krom also said he is getting requests from businesses on the North End about possibly doing a northern loop ride.
One of the scheduled stops along the ride this fall was Big Tuna on the Georgetown waterfront. The establishment is located on the same row where a devastating fire recently destroyed a number of historic buildings and the businesses they housed. Big Tuna, located on the next block over was spared. Riders toured the site of the fire during the Big Tuna stop; and, organizers who had initially planned to collect money for another charity decided to give the donations, which came to $282, to the Georgetown Fire Relief Fund instead.
Another stop took place at the Myrtle Beach Speedway where riders were allowed to take their motorcycles on the track for five laps. Krom excitedly said, “I’ll tell you, seeing 250 bikes making those laps around the track was a real thrill.”
Krom is also the local contact for the filming of a proposed, new, cable television show during the motorcycle rallies in the area. At the eleventh hour, plans to have a film crew to ride along with a number of local police and fire departments to document bike week activities at this year’s fall rally fell through. Executives at the Travel Channel, which would air the show, apparently want to hold off until the larger spring rally, but nothing is official at this point. The producers are the same ones who make the show “Alaska State Troopers” on the National Geographic Channel. According to Krom, the program would follow the same reality/ride-along format at a number of large events and festivals throughout the country, including Bike Week here.
After years of economic difficulties and the damage done by Myrtle Beach city officials, it is great to finally see the rallies gradually making a comeback. Hopefully there will be even better news to report at the spring rally.