Horry County weighing public safety money, coronavirus concerns with rescheduling bike rallies

Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County leaders are trying to figure out the future of this year’s motorcycle rallies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

May is usually the busiest month of the year for bikers visiting the Grand Strand, but that likely won’t be the case in 2020, as the spring bike rally scheduled for the middle of the month is in jeopardy.

“It’s tough for them to target a date this summer when we don’t even know when we’re going to be opening up our accommodations right now,” said Tyler Servant, an Horry County Council member representing Surfside Beach and Garden City, near where many events are held.

Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson already canceled its events for next month and will only have a fall rally. County council, however, deferred action Tuesday night on officially canceling all spring bike rally activities in unincorporated parts of the county until the fall.

The reason why is to talk with business owners and vendors about the best time to hold the next rally.

“Those folks are going to be up in arms if they don’t have an opportunity to speak on this resolution before we pass it,” said council member Harold Worley, who represents North Myrtle Beach, during the virtual meeting.

Some businesses have expressed interest in moving the spring rally to July, but some council members say that’s way too soon.

“We’d be just coming off this down time and we don’t need Harleys in here taking away from our summer visitors,” said council member Gary Loftus, who represents parts of Myrtle Beach and some South Strand communities.

Assistant county administrator Randy Webster, who oversees public safety, says it would also be expensive for first responders to work extra bike rallies next fiscal year, which starts on July 1. The minimal tourist tax revenue earned during the pandemic is also a factor.

Webster says that money helps fund the officers, firefighters and EMTs who work during bike rallies.

“Moving from normally three (rallies), now four, possibly five, is an astronomical strain on our budget,” said Webster.

One of those rallies is the Memorial Day weekend Bikefest in the town of Atlantic Beach. Earlier this month, town council voted to postpone the Bikefest to Labor Day weekend.

Webster says it’s unclear if that Bikefest would permanently move to Labor Day weekend in 2021. If it returned to Memorial Day weekend, that would be two Bikefests in the 2020-21 fiscal year. There would also be two “spring” rallies if a July one is held and the rally returns to its usual week in May 2021. The usual fall rally would be the fifth in that fiscal year in that scenario.

Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson wrote on Facebook earlier this month that its fall rally is scheduled for Oct. 5-11.

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