Myrtle Beach Speedway hopes to lure bikers back to rally

The revving of engines pierced the bright blue sky Monday as the Myrtle Beach Speedway opened its arms to bikers in town for the spring Harley-Davidson Bike Rally.

It’s been several years since the Speedway hosted bike rally events, and the new owners hope their efforts will lure larger crowds back after several years of dipping attendance.

“It’ll help this year and years to come for quite a while,” said Horry County Councilman Bob Grabowski, who has championed the bike rally for years.

Speedway general manager Howard Richardson cruised around the pit area Monday in a golf cart, checking on the festivities. He is pleased with how their first day has gone, saying bikers began arriving at 9 a.m. Monday.

By 1 p.m., around 100 bikers were enjoying the beautiful weather, the vendors and the music of classic rockers Aerosmith, David Bowie and Motley Crue blaring through speakers.

“We’re just trying to accommodate everybody,” Richardson said.

The Speedway is hosting 23 vendors as of Monday afternoon, Richardson added. Two more were expected to set up shop later in the day.

Other events throughout the week are stunt shows, live bands, eating contests and DJs.

The bike festival’s size peaked about a decade ago but fell rapidly in more recent years after Myrtle Beach City Council reacted strongly to complaints from residents and a shooting that occurred during the weekend of the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest.

Myrtle Beach Speedway is just one local business hosting more events this year to try and lure more bikers back to the Grand Strand.

Connecticut residents Kathy Ragusa and Lucy Lu Fazzina braved pouring rain to attend their first Myrtle Beach bike rally.

“I’m impressed with all the bikes,” Fazzina said as the two leaned sat on their own bikes and took in the Speedway sights.

Ragusa said one of the activities they’re most looking forward to this week is a 100-mile ride with fellow bikers.

West Virginia native Dottie Gain has traveled to Myrtle Beach over 10 years for the bike rally. She’s seen the highs and lows, and believes the 2013 edition is off to a roaring start.

“There’s a lot more bikes here, and a lot more vendors,” Gain said.