The Harley Davidson Spring Rally at The Rat Hole is part motorcycle rodeo, part family reunion for the folks who have attended for well over a decade.
Brandie Futrell of Wilmington, North Carolina, has competed in the rodeo over the last 10 years. For her, the folks here are family. They visit each other when they’re sick, keep up with each other and celebrate their love of motorcycles each spring at the place they met.
“We’ve known each other for 15 years. It’s a great community, great family. When someone is sick, they come to the rescue, and when someone needs help, we go to their rescue,” she said Wednesday. “We’ve met them all here at The Rat Hole.”
And at the center of the Rat Hole family experience are owners Ron “Ratt” Weaver and Buster “Cowboy” Brown. They put on the rodeo games each day of the week-long rally.
“We have people come from all over, in fact we have people getting married here,” Brown said. “It’s a biker environment where bikers get to do more than just sit around a jukebox and actually get involved.”
For them it’s “bikers entertaining bikers,” a phrase Brown repeats as he emceed the hours-long rodeo with short breaks. Brown remembers each biker’s name, praising them at times and taking a jab at them when they mess up.
Brown said the winner takes home a special belt buckle proclaiming them the victor of the 2019 Motorcycle Rodeo.
For the last 15 years, Greg and Hope Plank from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, have been coming to The Rat Hole every spring. Greg Plank said he has a victory belt buckle from all of the rodeos.
“I’m probably getting worse, old age factors into it after a while,” Plank said. “It’s challenging, you’re not going to find better competition. You’ve got the best of the best here.”
Despite believing his skills have diminished some, he took first in several of the events. The rodeo itself is divided into two parts. One is for single riders with events including a keg push and competition to see who can ride the slowest without losing their balance.
The doubles events, however, inspire the loudest responses from the crowd of hundreds of bikers in attendance. Male and female duos must complete various tasks while balancing on the bike. There is an event where the passenger holds a tray of cold water over the driver’s head and can’t spill it. In another, the passenger has to bite off as much of a hotdog as possible dangling over the moving bike.
Greg Plank said the waitress carrier is the one he’s best at, and he and his wife again fared well in this year’s competition, taking first.
While the day is spent enjoying the rodeo and drinking beer, the night is when the party starts to kick off with pudding wrestling followed by live music.
“Pretty girls wrestling for your entertainment,” Brown announced. “We will have pudding wrestling under the lights.”
When the pudding wrestling starts, a group of volunteers pull out a large pit to the center stage. Then the women who registered wrestle in front of the audience.
The rodeo and the pudding wrestling are tradition for this crowd., running daily for the entire rally.
The biannual event, with a rally in the fall, is a place of comfort for many who attend, Futrell said. It’s unfortunate that in recent years there has been a drop-off in attendance at the spring rally, she said, but she believes more people are starting to come back to Myrtle Beach and The Rat Hole.
“Fifteen years ago the bleachers would be full, but when the city tried to pull their noise control stuff, all of a sudden it dropped down,” Futrell said. “But it’s starting to pick back up. I’d love to see it back like 2005 or 2006.”
As the years roll on, Weaver and Brown aim to keep people entertained and the drinks flowing. While the premise of the rodeo stays the same every year, the owners try to improve their show each season. Bike week may have changed, but the family traditions of The Rat Hole remain consistent.
“We were bike enthusiasts when we were starting out, trying to have a traditional rodeo with real motorcycle games, so that’s what we created,” Weaver said. “It gets better every year.”