Atlantic Beach’s first year with expanded events for Bikefest seemed to succeed in drawing move visitors and more vendors to the small town, but businesses at the annual street fair reported mixed impacts on their sales.
This year marked the re-branding of the event as the “Black Pearl Cultural Heritage and Bike Festival,” and featured concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Many guessed that after a Friday with light foot traffic in Myrtle Beach, a greater proportion of visitors had opted for Atlantic Beach, the original home of Bikefest.
But the vendors selling food, T-shirts, toys and other souvenirs were not unanimous in how they saw the success of the programming.
Larry Sams, whose tent featured patches, leather vests and polarized sunglasses for bikers, said it was his first year selling at the street fair. Typically, he sets up shop near a nearby Hooter’s, where bikers congregate in the parking lot.
He said he was pleased with the business he’d had over the weekend, though it was unclear whether it would eclipse the sales he’d had in his previous spot. In the central street fair, there were as many people milling about to party and admire the bikes as there were actual bikers, Sams said.
“I do want bikers, because that’s who’s gonna buy what I have,” he said.
Many T-shirt sellers said their sales were flagging, despite increased attendance.
Tarey Thompson said his sales had been down by as much at 40 percent, even as foot traffic ballooned on Friday.
“It’s enough people here that I should be doing better,” he said, standing in his plastic tent filled with shirts.
But food vendors seemed to be more successful. Some tents competed with music and entertainment to draw customers, and Twisted Delights, which served up drinks in carved-out pineapples, had an employee shouting out specials like $2 piña colada shots while it played music by rap trio Migos to the passing crowd.
The tent became a destination for spontaneous dance parties throughout the evening. Owner Josh Bennett said he was happy with the volume of sales, the best in the three years he had come to Bikefest.
By 10 p.m. on Sunday, a short deluge of rain had washed out many of the visitors, and the party was winding down. Yung Joc kept playing in the Paradise Party Compound tent, and about 25 onlookers swayed back and forth in tune.
Outside, Aaron Sheperd was packing up the grills from his Jumbo Turkey Leg tent. He said he’d been in the same spot for the festivities for the past 10 years. His sales had been better this year than roughly the past three Bikefests he’d attended — and a line persisted outside Sheperd’s tent for most of the day, before the rain came.
Atlantic Beach, he said, was one of his favorite of the 20 events he sells at around the Southeast each year.
“I like the people, I like the camaraderie,” Sheperd said.
Though one other food tent about 20 yards away had also been selling turkey legs, Sheperd wasn’t concerned about the competition.
“I am the turkey leg man,” he said with a smile.