Atlantic Beach extends Bikefest, will overlap Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson rally

A week after Horry County Council decided not to change the vendor permits for the spring bike rallies, Atlantic Beach Town Council members voted Tuesday to extend their annual festival by a week.

Town Council voted Tuesday to extend its Memorial Day Bikefest activities from May 18 to May 28 and license vendors to sell merchandise and food, said Councilman Jake Evans.

“We shouldn’t be dealing with this stuff now. It should have been done way before the first of the year. Bikefest is less than a month away and this is something you just don’t handle at the eleventh hour,” Evans said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s just a shame that we would actually put this off until this late date. The bikers will (be) rolling in here a week or two.”

Other council members and Mayor Retha Pierce could not be immediately reached Tuesday for comment.

Atlantic Beach resident Paul Curry, who has been outspoken on town issues before, said he wasn’t expecting the council to extend Bikefest.

“It did take me by surprise also,” he said.

Curry said the additional days could benefit the town of Atlantic Beach because of the fee schedule, but will come at a cost because of the potential impact on neighboring jurisdictions like North Myrtle Beach.

North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling said officials there had no knowledge of the direction Atlantic Beach was going prior to Tuesday’s decision. Last Friday, North Myrtle Beach public safety officials checked in with the Atlantic Beach Police Department and was told everything was the same, he added.

Dowling said it would have been nice for Atlantic Beach officials to have brought surrounding municipalities into the conversation before making a decision to extend the Bikefest.

“On first blush, it’s not great news,” Dowling said.

North Myrtle Beach officials are already preparing for the Blue Crab Festival, which runs May 19 and 20, and the Divas Half Marathon, a new event that is being held May 20.

The marathon is expected to bring in 4,000 participants, Dowling said.

Horry County Councilman Harold Worley, a major supporter of the Blue Crab Festival, doesn’t think Atlantic Beach’s decision will have any significant impact on either the Bikefest itself, or other events happening that weekend.

Worley said time and hundreds of thousands of dollars is needed to promote the expanded event in order to help Atlantic Beach grow tourism. There’s less than a month before the start of the town’s Bikefest.

“I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference other than in their minds,” Worley said.

Officials with the Myrtle Beach Harley Davidson dealership were not available for comment on Tuesday.

In March, some Atlantic Beach Town Council members argued that they should have minimal involvement with the bike festival to reduce costs.

The town’s festival will now overlap with the Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson rally, which also is set for May 18 to 28. Atlantic Beach Bikefest has traditionally been held in the town during Memorial Day weekend.

Because Horry County Council refused to change vendor permit dates nothing is expected to change with Atlantic Beach Town officials changing theirs, said Lisa Bourcier, Horry County spokeswoman.

“We didn’t issue any [vendor permits near Atlantic Beach] last year, but that may change this year,” Bourcier said. “We may see additional traffic and a pickup of events.”

Horry County Police, who provide some public safety in the town as well as at key locations during the Harley-Davidson rally throughout the county, will have to review their staffing plans, Sgt. Robert Kegler said after hearing of the change.

“We’re going to continue to police like we’ve always policed," Kegler said.

In Myrtle Beach, police Capt. David Knipes said he was surprised by the changes because of the late timing.

“We don’t really know what effect this will have on the number of attendees, but we will be prepared in case we need to make any changes,” Knipes said. “Our plans are made and our plans are set but we do have contingencies if there are additional influxes [of people] or problems so we can change them if needed.”

Lance Cpl. Sonny Collins, with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, said it’s too early to know exactly what their enforcement plan is going to be, and there will have to be an evaluation of all changes.

“We always are flexible in our planning for these big events,” Collins said.