Myrtle Beach area ready for upcoming bike rally

bdickerson@thesunnews.comMay 4, 2013 

Bikers cruise Kings Highway Monday at the start of Cruisin' the Coast 2011 Spring Beach Rally. Photo by Steve Jessmore

STEVE JESSMORE — The Sun News Buy Photo

— Businesses along the Grand Strand want to do more to bring crowds back to the Spring Myrtle Beach Harley Davidson Crusin’ the Coast rally.

The plans include additional entertainment options and a 90-mile bike ride that stretches all across the Grand Strand.

Horry County public safety officials have a different focus.

They just want to make sure bike week participants behave – no matter how many show up.

There are no good estimates for how many will.

Area businesses such as the Myrtle Beach Speedway, Bucksport Marina, SBB and Big Tuna Raw Bar are expanding offerings in hopes of taking the rally back to its former glory, which once drew estimates of hundreds of thousands of participants every year.

Organizers are touting May 10 through May 19 as the dates for the rally, while vendor permits issued by Horry County won’t take effect until May 13.

The festival’s size peaked about a decade ago but fell rapidly in more recent years after Myrtle Beach City Council reacted strongly to complaints from residents and a shooting that occurred during the weekend of the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest.

Diving back into the festivities this year after new ownership and renovations is Myrtle Beach Speedway, which is hosting live music, exhibitions and vendors.

“The Speedway used to be one of the most popular rally points during the spring and fall bike weeks but hasn’t hosted a rally for years,” said Howard Richardson, general manager for the Speedway.

Bucksport Marina general manager Ralph Simms has said his business 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 a complex along the Waccamaw River.

Then there’s the 90-mile ride along U.S. 17, U.S. 501 and U.S. 701 that winds through Murrells Inlet, Myrtle Beach, Conway, Bucksport and Georgetown. It’s called the Loop.

Riders stopping at participating sponsors along the route will receive special discounts and can register to win prizes.

Organizers want the extra activities to offset the negative effects an uncertain economy and the passage of city ordinances dissuading riders from coming to Myrtle Beach have had on the rally.

Officials with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce didn’t have any projected crowd estimates for this year’s event.

Fifty-four permits were issued as of Wednesday, according to information from Lisa Bourcier, Horry County spokeswoman.

Last year, the county took a more than $183,000 combined loss for the Harley and Atlantic Beach bike rallies.

The direct and indirect expenses generated from policing the rallies totaled about $144,363 for the Harley event and $113,087 for Atlantic Beach’s festival, a total of $257,450.

What the county didn’t see was sufficient revenue from vendor permits to offset the costs of paying officers to patrol the rallies.

The total revenue generated from both events was $74,360.

The county has taken in about $42,900 in revenue so far for the 2013 Harley Davidson permits.

But while the size of the crowd and the hit to the county’s bottom line remain uncertain, the plan by law enforcement is set.

In 2012, 285 warnings were given, 147 citations issued and $33,318 in fines assessed, according to Horry County’s 2012 Harley-Davidson rally law enforcement summary.

Paul Whitten, director of Horry County Public Safety, said the county is sticking with a tried-and-true approach and won’t make changes despite the announcement of the additional events associated with the rally.

Myrtle Beach doesn’t have plans to make major law enforcement adjustments either, said Mark Kruea, the city’s spokesman.

“We don’t write the laws. We enforce the laws,” Whitten said. “I think we did a good job” last year.

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