Volunteers in bright green vests combed Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach on Saturday morning, ready with long trash pickers to snatch up debris left from last night’s Bikefest visitors.
But some pairs, like Molly Owens and Tom Mortimore, walked around aimlessly. The lack of trash was testament to what observers up and down the boulevard called a slow opening to Memorial Day weekend’s Atlantic Beach Bikefest.
“There were thousands and thousands of pineapples last year,” said Mortimore, referring to the tropical drinks that are often served in the hollowed-out fruit. “It was more pineapples than I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”
Some, including Mortimore and Owens, attributed the evidently thinner crowds to new programming in Atlantic Beach. The town just north of Myrtle Beach is hosting concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this year for the first time.
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It was the traditional home to Bikefest crowds, before they expanded to other areas of the Grand Strand in the 1990s.
The lull is also a surprise because last year, Tropical Storm Bonnie washed out the last days of the weekend. Bad weather forecasts can also deter visitors from booking travel or a vacation in the first place.
But in 2017, even with warm weather and sunny skies on Friday, downtown Myrtle Beach was calm enough that law enforcement decided to end its traffic loop, usually in place from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., a half hour early in the early hours of Saturday.
“One, the traffic was flowing, and two, the levels of traffic had reduced since we started the loop,” Lt. Joey Crosby of Myrtle Beach Police said.
Mayor John Rhodes said he also noticed lighter crowds.
“We were very pleased with last night. Other than a little noise, we thought things were pretty good,” Rhodes said. “The police officers were commenting about how nice and cordial the visitors were, and when they asked them to do something, it was, ‘Yes sir, no problem.’ ”
But, he said, Saturday is often the biggest day for Bikefest, because the city will swell with visitors just taking a trip down for the day.
“We’ll just have to see what comes to town today,” Rhodes said.