My column about Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest sparked a good bit of reaction and reflection, a lot of it thoughtful. I’m going to include two, one suggesting I was way off base in my description, the other saying I got it right.
First, the con:
Mr. Bailey -
I turned to your column today hoping to find comments that demonstrated your understanding of the Bikefest mess. But I was disappointed - you just don't get it and I'm becoming more and more certain that you'll never get it. No matter the circumstances, you'll always find, in your mind at least, evidence of unfairness and discrimination directed toward your race.
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For instance, you seem to think that the bikers' conduct simply mirrors that of our other visitors. You say "most of our estimated 16 million annual tourists come to break rules, bend laws, etc. in the name of vacation fun". What a moronic comment - do you seriously believe it?
You go on to say that "most crime here is committed by locals". Please, Mr. Bailey, don't insult our intelligence. You comment may be true as far as the other 51 weeks of the year, but Bikefest week is in a class of its own.
To continue, you suggest that the Chamber claimed that "crime is an issue here only one weekend a year". Only you could ferret out and modify comments to fit your views that everybody is against your race. Most rational people will agree that crime prevention is a priority every day of the year. They also know and will acknowledge that some days and some events are more crime-inductive than others and will expect elected officials to take appropriate action.
Finally, you refer to a holiday weekend shooting several years ago which you attribute to 'locals'; then point to a 'small group from Charleston' as responsible for the recent three fatalities and close with a plea for people in Charleston to stop outsourcing gun violence and to 'shut up'.
I've reread this section of your column several times, trying to find anything on point with your
argument that Bikefest bikers are being unjustly maligned but I can't. What are you trying to say?
I don't like the comment 'shut up' and have tried to teach my children that there are better ways to tell someone to lighten up. But in your case, I just can't think of anything else - please shut up, Mr. Bailey.
Now, the pro:
Welcome back! I wasn't aware of your physical condition that you mentioned in your column today, but I pray for your comfort and full recovery.
I am a lifelong motorcyclist although not a "biker": I don't wear the biker uniform and prefer my rides longer than from bar to bar in the same Zip code. I currently ride a Harley, but have owned and ridden different marks from three continents. I have been to many rallies and gatherings over these years, and I need to tell you nailed it on the head the true essence of the problems faced in our area in May, particularly over Memorial Day. I would also like to build on your assessment.
If you look at the biggest rallies, namely Daytona Beach in March and Sturgis , SD in August, there are plenty of organized happenings other than just a gathering of like-minded people: motorcycle races, motorcycle shows, factory showings and test rides, and a lot of scenic local rides. Sturgis in particular has a whole lot to offer because of its proximity to the Black Hills, a veritable top-ten motorcycle riding heaven. The Keys and Disney World augment Daytona. Myrtle Beach, alas, is woefully deficient in this regard because of its traffic. The brand rallies such as BMW and HOG (Harley Owners Group) even offer seminars, motorcycle travel documentaries and guest speakers. So all this means meaningful opportunities to enjoy the motorcycle experience, and yes, camaraderie and foolishness afterward over beverages. But the main focus is always the motorcycle.
As far as law enforcement goes, Myrtle Beach ought to look what Daytona Beach does: its screws its enforcement down tighter than a Panhead rear axle nut during rallies. In the center of town there are mobile police stations, holding cells and magistrate courts right off Main Street. Not sure if these facilities get used much but their close presence tends to sober up the wildest of hooligans. The Florida State Police are merciless on I-95 coming and going so you are put on notice hundreds of miles in advance that the "man" is not putting up with much unlawful stuff. But like the fine practiced touch that New Orleans Police use during Mardi Gras, the level of enforcement does not damper any legitimate fun.
One other comment: just preceding the Bikefest weekend I saw a whole bunch of guys trailering their sport bikes ("crotch-rockets" to non- motorcyclists). These bikes do not travel well long distance hence the trailers and trucks. They were driving new or well-maintained trucks and tow vehicles, and when they stepped out of their vehicles at restaurants etc. you couldn't tell if they were going to mount up a golf cart or a Hayabusa. In other words guys just like me. In my mind they enjoyed the Atlantic Beach festivities as it was meant to be.
The conundrum, of course, is what to do about the other hangers on and partygoers that come for the sin as you put it and spill over mostly unwelcomed onto Ocean Boulevard and such. And "Roger That "on the outsourced Charleston gun-gangs.
I am going to make a conscious effort next year to talk with Bikefest motorcyclists as they pass through Murrells Inlet. I would even try to visit Bikefest however to be perfectly honest I am not sure I would be welcomed by most or even safe for that matter. Such are the fears and perceptions that keep us apart.
Mike Fowler/Murrells Inlet
We should stop pretending that only “families” come to or allowed to visit the Myrtle Beach area. We consistently rank high on family beach lists; that doesn’t mean our numerous strip clubs, watering holes, alcoholic beverage stores and nightclubs are neglected when all those ‘families’ show up. In fact, plenty of current local leaders, professionals and retirees spent abundant summer weekends here during their youth giddily participating in the activities they now frown upon.
Black people didn’t just start coming to the area during Memorial Day weekend in 1980, when Bikefest began in Atlantic Beach as a fish fry for a local all-black motorcycle club. They were coming many years before that, as part of those other ‘families’ we like to tout in chamber material. Do you really think all of that national marketing reaches only the eyes of potential white tourists? Many people seem to forget that, and that’s why they have a fundamental misunderstanding about the makeup of Bikefest and why they insist black people in the area during that weekend must be “spillover” from Atlantic Beach. Here’s the reality: Not all black people here that weekend come for Bikefest and many, if not most, know little to nothing about Bikefest or Atlantic Beach. They come for reasons as varied as why other tourists come here. Yes, even many of the young black men on high-powered bikes riding on Ocean Boulevard are here for the street party atmosphere in Myrtle Beach they have grown to love. That won’t change even if Bikefest is cancelled.
No, Atlantic Beach is not responsible for acts occurring in Myrtle Beach, even if those doing bad acts actually came for Bikefest. Think of it this way. A man, a member of one of those wonderful families we attract, came here for the offerings and events in Myrtle Beach. He spends most of his time in Myrtle Beach in a Myrtle Beach hotel. He decides to take a drive to see Pawleys Island. While there, he gets drunk and shoots another man in a Pawleys Island restaurant. Should Myrtle Beach be held responsible for that man’s actions? If not, why should Atlantic Beach be held responsible for an alleged gang-related shooting in Myrtle Beach?
And, yes, most of the crime committed in our area is committed by Grand Strand residents. Memorial Day sticks out like a sore thumb because more police here that weekend can catch more lawbreakers than they can any other time of the year. And the huge, concentrated crowds in some of the most visible areas of Myrtle Beach makes it stand out even more. During other events and weekends, similar acts are taking place, but not as out in the open, and not in such concentrated groups that adversely affect traffic routes and restaurant schedules. That’s what makes Memorial Day unique and why I said it should not be treated like Harley week, because they are not the same animal.
Oh, I stand by my comments about Charleston officials.