Memorial weekend more than AB Bikefest, still the big draw

By the Editorial Board

Area residents have varying feelings and opinions about the throngs of visitors here for Memorial weekend, including Atlantic Beach Bikefest, a thorn in the side for many.

There are, to be sure, more Memorial weekend events, or reasons for being here, than Bikefest. Military Appreciation Days stands out as a tourism draw other than Bikefest. The city of Myrtle Beach started Military Appreciation Days during the month of May as an alternative to Bikefest, an event that started four decades ago. The long weekend is the traditional opening of summer at the beach, albeit the timing is prior to the first day of summer on the calendar.

The facts of Bikefest are that it draws many more people than the Harley rally and other events. The tiny town of Atlantic Beach is not large enough to contain Bikefest. This has been the case for many years as the city of Myrtle Beach and other entities dealt with huge volumes of motorcyclists. If the larger Harley rally this month is any indication, Bikefest may have more participants.

For many years, traffic control on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach (29th Avenue North to 29th Avenue South) included designating the northbound lane for emergency vehicles only and the southbound lane for other vehicles. That traffic plan was not used for a couple of years, including 2014 when the Memorial weekend was marred by multiple shootings in which three people died. Law enforcement officials had no doubt that stalled traffic on Ocean Boulevard led to “street parties” and more serious problems.

In 2015, a 23-mile traffic loop was in effect from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday through Sunday of Memorial weekend. The loop was designed by a task force headed by Horry County Director of Emergency Management Randy Webster. State, county and municipal law enforcement officials spent months preparing for the weekend. The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce promoted good behavior in a video titled “Know Before You Go.”

Not the typical tourism promotion, it informs potential visitors of an increased presence of uniformed and plainclothes police officers and encourages visitors to obey the law – or go somewhere else. The intensive preparation for 2015, including the traffic loop, resulted in a successful Memorial weekend a year ago – certainly a safer holiday than the previous year.

The Horry County Junior ROTC Drill Meet on May 7 was new this year for Military Appreciation Days. Five high school drill teams participated in “a great event ... a winner all around.” Mark Kruea, city public information director, anticipates the meet will be repeated in future years.

This year’s parade and military family picnic will be around and in Valor Memorial Garden in the Market Common, the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. The parade will be on Howard Avenue, Farrow Parkway and Meyers Avenue. Kruea notes that the bulk of Military Appreciation Days events initially were at the Market Common sites, although the parade was downtown. Last year, some were upset that the parade was on Armed Forces Day, the week prior, because of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and the traffic devices on Ocean Boulevard.

Whatever brings them here for Memorial weekend, visitors should expect to behave themselves while having a good time, and residents should be welcoming even when inconvenienced.

Loop problems? Where to call

Residents of Myrtle Beach anticipating problems reaching homes or businesses because of the 10 p.m. - 2 a.m. traffic loop May 27-29 may contact the Myrtle Beach Police Department. Residents of unincorporated areas may contact Horry County Dispatch, using the following non-emergency phone numbers.

Phones | 843-918-1366 ( Lt. Joey Crosby); 843-918-1382, Myrtle Beach Dispatch non-emergency; 843-248-1520, Horry County Dispatch

Email | jcrosby@cityofmyrtlebeach.com

Online | www.police.cityofmyrtlebeach.com