MYRTLE BEACH — Several local businesses announced a partnership Friday with one goal in mind – to bring the spring Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson biker rally back to its past glory.
Representatives from the Myrtle Beach Speedway, Bucksport Marina and NextMedia gathered on the speedway’s track, surrounded by dozens of motorcycles while the riders looked on. They talked about a plan to bring the annual rally’s attendance back to its pre-2008 levels, before the economic collapse and the passage of ordinances that started keeping those riders away.
Organizers said the initiative has the blessing of county and city officials, though no Horry County or Myrtle Beach officials were present for Friday’s announcement.
The businesses’ plan includes additional entertainment options and a 90-mile bike ride that stretches all across the Grand Strand.
Speedway general manager Howard Richardson said his facility will host events from May 13 through May 19. Vendors are going to peddle wares from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day, and there will be games.
Bucksport Marina general manager Ralph Simms said his business has opened a new 5,000-square foot Tiki bar with a bandstand to accommodate larger events. There will be live music each day of the rally at complex along the Waccamaw River.
Then there’s the 90-mile ride along U.S. 17, U.S. 501 and U.S. 701 that travels through Murrells Inlet, Myrtle Beach, Conway, Bucksport and Georgetown. It’s called the Loop, and riders that stop at participating sponsors along the route will receive special discounts and can register to win prizes.
“Ride the Loop, and come on back,” Simms said.
Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said the first she had heard about the plan was after being contacted by a reporter with The Sun News on Friday.
In a press release, Councilman Al Allen was quoted as saying the new and upgraded facilities at venues like the Speedway and Bucksport Marina will allow Bike Week crowds to be more manageable and offer them more options.
“We’re fine with growing the bike weeks as long as the public safety requirements are adhered to, laws are followed and behavior is accepted,” Allen said in the press release.
A message left Friday for Allen was not returned before press time.
Mark Kruea, spokesman for the city of Myrtle Beach, said the city’s position since 2009 has been “no, thank you” to big biker rallies.
“We’ve not been approached and are not supporters of this (plan),” Kruea said. “The city does not recognize the bike rallies, and the bike rallies are not in Myrtle Beach.”
The Harley-Davidson spring rally took a hit in 2009 after Myrtle Beach established a helmet rule that eventually was overturned.
In 2012, the Myrtle Beach Harley Davidson dealership’s effort to create one two-week-long bike rally instead of having a spring rally followed by Atlantic Beach Bikefest during Memorial Day created initial confusion and then criticism. It didn’t appear to have an effect on attendance.
Motorcycle enthusiasts at Friday’s press conference hope this recent effort does affect attendance – for the better.
Murrells Inlet resident Dennis Mazzilli said he has taken part in bike week activities for 20 years. He’s stayed in Murrells Inlet during the festival ever since Myrtle Beach’s ordinance passage in 2009.
This year, he said plans to support what the Grand Strand businesses are trying to accomplish.
“Anything that’s for the bike week, I’m for it,” Mazzilli said.
Fellow Grand Strand resident Lee Wimmer said a tourism-based economy needs as many tourists as it can get.
He likes what he heard on Friday and feels it’s a positive step toward the bike rally reclaiming its past glory.
“You still can’t beat this area,” Wimmer said.
The dates for the Cruisin’ the Coast spring rally are May 10 through May 19.
Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_bdickerson.