Friday’s editorial suggests that the shape of this year’s Harley rally may be indicative of years to come.
As we head into the second weekend of this year’s motorcycle Myrtle Beach drivearound, CCU’s Brittain Center for Resort Tourism has released an intriguing figure: Overall hotel occupancy for last Friday and Saturday, the first rally weekend of 2010, was just under 55 percent.
During the first rally weekend in
2009 – the year
If history is any guide, nearly
every side in this debate will jump to its own conclusions from this point. The
most devoted rally advocates will dismiss the validity of the numbers
altogether, while those who fought hardest to run the bikers out of
So what is going on? Like last year, motorcyclists are diligently avoiding the city limits, where new laws require them to don helmets and be acutely aware of their decibel levels. Instead, the actual “rallying” is primarily taking place in the south end of the Grand Strand amid the cluster of venerable institutions that include Suck Bang Blow and the Beaver Bar, with bikers traveling to a number of outlying destinations such as North Myrtle Beach’s Barefoot Landing or HB Spokes in Longs – all within a pleasant cruise up S.C. 31, well away from the restrictions of Myrtle Beach.
Perhaps what we are seeing is the new shape of the Harley rally to come, an event that coexists peacefully with beach tourism in May. Mike Shank of Festival Promotions, once one of the rally’s strongest advocates, points out that the only way total occupancy in the first weekend of 2010 could match that in 2008 is if there are more non-bikers here than there were two years ago, because “we definitely don’t have as many bikers.” And it may be that last weekend was just a fluke, that an unusual number of people just acted on an overwhelming urge for a weekend at the beach.
If this coming weekend’s figures show a continuation of the trend, however, it may be safe to conclude that, in some sense, Myrtle Beach’s exercise in home rule worked (inasmuch as a ponderous S.C. Supreme Court ultimately allows it to, anyway). The rally is “over” – but only inside the narrow area drawn by the city limits – and what remains is smaller and more manageable for everyone else, yet still a good time for the bikers.
Much rebuilding remains to be done – the same report shows average room prices still 15 percent below 2008’s levels, for example, but we may be nearing a solution most of us can live with. So for those of you bikers who were not permanently alienated by the city’s anti-biker messaging, welcome back to the Grand Strand.