MYRTLE BEACH — The revving of engines pierced the bright blue sky Monday as the Myrtle Beach Speedway opened its arms to bikers in town for the spring Harley-Davidson Crusin’ the Coast bike rally.
It’s been several years since the Speedway hosted bike rally events, and the new owners hope their efforts will lure larger crowds back after several years of dipping attendance.
“It’ll help this year and years to come for quite a while,” said Horry County Councilman Bob Grabowski, who has championed the bike rally for years.
Speedway general manager Howard Richardson said there were over 1,500 bikers who came by on Monday. He figures that number was surpassed by 1 p.m. Tuesday for second-day attendance.
On the first day, bikers were enjoying the beautiful weather, the vendors and the music of classic rockers Aerosmith, David Bowie and Motley Crue blaring through speakers.
By Tuesday, women wearing nothing but bikinis charged $10 for a bike wash, race car drivers were taking daredevils for rides around the track at speeds of 90 miles per hour and stunt shows took place every hour on the hour starting at noon.
“We’re just trying to accommodate everybody,” Richardson said.
The Speedway is hosting 23 vendors as of Monday afternoon, Richardson added. Two more were expected to set up shop later in the day.
Other events throughout the week include live bands, eating contests and DJs.
Richardson, who took ownership of the Speedway a year ago, said it’s been 20 years since the track has hosted a proper bike rally event.
The bike 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.
Myrtle Beach Speedway is just one local business hosting more events this year to try and lure more bikers back to the Grand Strand.
Grabowski likes how the Speedway is offering another venue for bike rally festivities.
“It’ll help to spread the bike week out a little bit,” he said.
Connecticut residents Kathy Ragusa and Lucy Lu Fazzina braved pouring rain to attend their first Myrtle Beach bike rally.
“I’m impressed with all the bikes,” Fazzina said as the two – each with their own bike – took in the Speedway sights.
Ragusa said one of the activities they’re most looking forward to this week is a 100-mile ride with fellow bikers.
West Virginia native Dottie Gain has traveled to Myrtle Beach over 10 years for the bike rally. She’s seen the highs and lows, and believes the 2013 edition is off to a roaring start.
“There’s a lot more bikes here, and a lot more vendors,” Gain said.
Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_bdickerson.