Atlantic Beach hopes reduced vendor fees and increased entertainment lead to a bigger BikeFest this year.
The annual bike rally starts at 3 p.m. Friday and continues through 3 p.m. Memorial Day.
As of Friday, assistant town manager Linda Cheatham, said there are 21 vendors for the three day rally. At this time last year, there were 20. Cheatham said it is typical for Atlantic Beach to see several last minute vendors, and she said she expects the number to rise before opening ceremonies on Friday.
As for traffic, Cheatham said she expects vendors to begin arriving Thursday with bikers shortly after.
“We have a lot of first time vendors,” she said. “We tried to do more outreach than we had done in the past couple of years.”
Cheatham said town representatives visited bike shows to talk about the event, but said she hopes some of the reason for the new vendors is “word of mouth about what a wonderful place it is to be.”
Town Council dropped rates for vendors for the second straight year following high costs in 2012 that Mayor Jake Evans said led to the “worst BikeFest ever,” where vendors and council members alike reported low turnout.
Retail permits cost $1,100 in 2012, were dropped to $900 after May 15 in 2013 and are $850 this year. Food permits this year cost $875, compared to $1,200 in mid May in 2013 and $2,100 in 2012.
In the past, the rally started on Thursday and continued through the weekend. The last two years, it’s began on Friday, but this year, Cheatham said hours will be extended. Previously, it was lights-out at 2 a.m. each night, but Town Council will allow the rally festivities to continue on to 4 a.m. this weekend.
Despite the late hours, Cheatham said Atlantic Beach hopes to see a more family friendly event this year and said she thinks the attendance will be bigger than the past two BikeFests.
“We have a stunt show performing every day,” Cheatham. “A film festival with some biker films, a midnight dance party. We’re trying to have more things for the visitors to do.”
She said the town is still working to have jazz musicians perform throughout the day and will have ATM machines for added convenience as well as video arcades.
For those headed into town, public safety officials warn of potentially congested roadways in Atlantic Beach and surrounding North Myrtle Beach. Cheatham said there will be turn-only lanes for BikeFest traffic in the town.
In North Myrtle Beach, expect the return of the traffic chute, which involves barricades on the east side of U.S. 17 from 27th Avenue South to 37th Avenue South that provide a dedicated northbound lane for motorcyclists and motorists headed to BikeFest. The chute likely will be set up early Friday morning.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381 or on Twitter @TSN_AKelley.