As Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest starts up for 2017, staff in towns and cities across the Grand Strand are rushing to prepare for the event.
Last year, police logged 7,101 hours of overtime.
But this year could be even bigger in both visitors and, by extension, law enforcement activity. The weather forecast for the weekend predicts mostly sunny skies and warm temperatures; last year, Tropical Storm Bonnie washed out many visitors’ plans by Sunday.
City Spokesman Mark Kruea said Myrtle Beach is prepared for the influx, and is putting in place many of the same plans as last year, including a 23-mile traffic loop.
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“We handle good-sized crowds for a large part of the year,” he said.
Because of the crowds, city offices along the Grand Strand work differently than those in the rest of the country, which might be closed on Monday for the holiday.
Mundane city functions like solid waste and recycling pickup will stay on a typical schedule. But other offices will work overtime.
Myrtle Beach’s clerk of court will be open 24 hours, and the city will hold bond hearings every six hours in the Ted C. Collins Law Enforcement Center to process the expected increase in infractions. It’s the only time all year when it follows such a schedule.
North Myrtle Beach staff will also work odd hours, as employees of the Public Works department start at 4 a.m. Friday to erect a traffic chute.
The chute will run along U.S. 17 on the south side of the city, creating a dedicated southbound lane to take visitors to Atlantic Beach.
Before the city started using that traffic pattern, it was “absolute gridlock from restaurant row [in Myrtle Beach] to North Myrtle Beach,” Spokesman Pat Dowling said.
Dowling said that law enforcement in the city have been on call basically non-stop since 2017 Bike Week began, a different event in May that brings mostly older Harley-Davidson riders.
Atlantic Beach, the original home of Bikefest, is one of the few places that will not feature altered traffic patterns, Town Manager Benjamin Quattlebaum said.
But the town, which has dubbed the festivities the “Black Pearl Heritage and Bike Festival,” is dealing with different demands because of the concerts it will hold Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
“You hope that vendors would have preregistered, but as usual they all wait until the 12th hour,” Quattlebaum said of the food and retail sellers that will start offering their goods Friday.
Town staff have been working 12-hour days to prepare for this year, which will be the first they have scheduled three nights of concerts.
“The concert folks are setting up the stage as we speak,” Quattlebaum said Thursday.