For the 75th year, Myrtle Beach played host to hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts for the Spring Harley Davidson Rally. After years of strategic controversy diminished attendance, bikers returned to Myrtle Beach in a black and chrome flood. From the waterfront restaurants of Murrells Inlet to the upper echelon boutiques of North Myrtle, signs welcomed bikers.
Approximately 23,000 Carolinians call Myrtle Beach home while approximately fourteen million tourists call it their home away from home for vacations. Tourism is the lifeline which supports the Myrtle Beach area. In addition to the Harley Davidson Rally, the area hosts events for comic book enthusiasts, golfers, fishermen, writers, teachers, accountants, and businesses. However, it’s the families from Maine to Florida which represent the bulk of Myrtle Beach tourism.
In 2008, Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes led the charge to encourage both the Harley Davidson Rally and the Atlantic Beach Motorcycle Rally to find new homes. Rhodes said, “We've already made it clear we don't support rallies and won't support rallies.” Citing noise complaints from residents as the primary justification, Rhodes and the City Council instituted sound ordinances and helmet requirements to withdraw the welcome mat for bikers.
As a result, scorned bikers vowed not to spend money in Myrtle Beach even as vacationers. In fact, the quote was, “not a dime until the end of time,” in reference to supporting Myrtle Beach at any time of the year. More than two dozen motorcycle themed businesses felt the sting of the absent bikers and closed. Protestors and petitions took the issue all the way to the South Carolina Supreme Court where the court ruled against City Council.
In the years following the repeal of the anti-motorcycle laws, bikers slowly learned to temper hostility toward government officials with their affection for the business owners. For the 2014 rally, the streets were paved with motorcycles. Ironically, an unconscious compromise may have materialized. With sponsored businesses spread from the north end to the south end, noise and congestion was reduced within the city limits.
Vendors, who were once denied permission to sell within the city limits, lined parking lots and greeted customers. Businesses sporting signs which read, “Welcome Bikers,” were rewarded with patrons. Local law enforcement directed traffic and treated bikers like friends as both worked to ensure the safety of bikers, shoppers, and vacationers.
The 2014 Spring Harley Davidson Rally reunited bikers with old friends from the Myrtle Beach area. Vendors and businesses enjoyed the patronage, while the city enjoyed the tax revenue. In the end, it was simply another wonderful week to ride bikes in Myrtle Beach.