Friday, May 16, 2014
The 75th-annual spring Harley Rally has kicked into high gear with more bikers expected along the South Strand than in previous years.
Organizers say they expect about 125,000 bikers to attend the rally before it concludes Monday.
Lt. T.L. Staub with the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office has been patrolling the rally in the Murrells Inlet and Garden City area for the past 17 years. He agrees that there are more bikers this year than last year.
Staub has been the watch commander during his shift and said Wednesday night everything was peaceful during the first five days of the event.
The Sheriff’s Office not only has officers patrolling the rally in vehicles, there are also deputies in the area of SBB and the Beaver Bar along the Georgetown-Horry County border on Highway 17 Business that are on foot.
“We just want to make sure people are safe and well behaved,” Staub said.
Extra officers are used to work the rally so that a normal number of deputies are able to patrol and provide service to the rest of the county, Staub said.
He said the Sheriff’s Office works closely with Horry County police and the S.C. Highway Patrol to make sure it is a safe and enjoyable rally for everyone, and it has been working.
Staub said there have been no major incidents of violence at the rally that he can recall.
The bikers, Staub said, seem to be spread out over a larger part of Murrells Inlet this year.
In years past, almost all the activity was in the areas of SBB, the Beaver Bar, Inlet Square Mall and the Big SBB on Highway 17 Bypass. But, the Big SBB was recently demolished to make room for a new business.
On Wednesday night, a large number of bikers were enjoying Wacca Wache Marina Restaurant which is several miles away from the hub of the activity.
There was also activity farther south at Highway 17 businesses than in previous years, as bikers converged at Crooked Floor Tavern for the first time, Staub said.
There are officers assigned to the nearly three miles of Garden City that are in Georgetown County. Those officers rotate between the Garden City beat – which was very quiet Wednesday night – and Murrells Inlet, Staub said.
Charity Price, whose family owns the Beaver Bar, has been selling beer in the parking lot for several years and agreed that the number of visitors is up. She also said the number of vendors has increased and some of the things being sold has changed.
For example, she said she has been surprised at the amount of sales being made by a vendor selling “girly-girl clothing.”
“You would think that would not be a big seller at an event like this, but it has been,” Price said.
Price, in her normal job, rents houses to vacationers along the South Strand. She said the people who think the bikers cause trouble are wrong.
“We have a lot more damage done to our houses we rent in July to regular families than we do when bikers rent the homes in May,” Price said.
Mackie Harris, his wife, Carrie, and their daughter, Gracie, live at Murrells Inlet and spent part of Wednesday evening enjoying the weather by sitting in their golf cart watching the bikers. It is something they have been doing for the past 11 years.
“It is bigger this year,” Mr. Harris said.
His wife said she and her family “like to people watch. It gives us something to do.” As for the noise associated with the motorcycles and the outdoor concerts, Mrs. Harris said “we don’t mind it.”
At least one charity gets a big boost from the rally each year. South Strand Assembly is a church located right in the midst of the activity, so each year the church charges $2 for motorcycles and $5 for cars to use the parking lot.
Cindy Irvin said the money collected goes to the church’s food bank to help feed the hungry.
“This is our big fund raiser each year,” Irvin said as she held a sign trying to get more bikers to use the parking lot Wednesday evening.
Tourism officials say they are expecting hotel occupancy this weekend to be at least 12-percent higher than last year.
At 75-years-old, this is the second oldest bike rally in the country. A rally in New Hampshire has been taking place for more than 90 years.