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Harley-Davidson motorcycle rally could come to North Myrtle Beach

December 10, 2009

Harley-Davidson motorcycle rally could come to North Myrtle Beach

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — A new motorcycle rally could be on its way for Spring.

North Myrtle Beach is one of three cities Harley-Davidson is looking at to host a five-day motorcycle event for the Harley Owners Group in May.

That event would be in addition to the annual Spring motorcycle rally and to the Memorial Day bikefest in Atlantic Beach.

Before the motorcycles start roaring and the tents start being set up, some changes in city ordinances would need to happen.

Business owners Mark Lazarus, a former Horry County Councilman, and Harold Worley, a current county councilman, presented a plan for the event and others aimed at attracting more people to the city’s Main Street area, to the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce Thursday morning.

The presentation detailed several events that could help extend the tourist season and promote the Main Street area, which was made more accessible by the completion of the extension off of U.S. 31, the Robert Edge Parkway.

Lazarus and Worley said they were looking for the support of the chamber and the business owners who would benefit from the events before deciding whether to go to the city council to ask for the ordinance changes that would make the events on Main Street possible.

“We don’t want to close down streets or go into the neighborhoods for this. There are 10,000 people who come for the shag events and that works out well for Main Street. It’s the same number of people and they come in and bring business when it’s relatively slow,” Lazarus said.

The chamber board was hesitant to affirm its support for the plan Thursday, but agreed to form a task force to look into the rule changes and to begin meeting with elected officials and the public to gage the area sentiment.

“We are going to put together a small task force. We probably got three or four people who volunteered to be on it after the meeting. We want to get an understanding of what kinds of permitting are in place right now on Main Street and in that downtown area… and what would need to change to make it more attractive,” said chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Marc Jordan. “We have a lot of options for that area, and April and May are the months we need to look at to expand the season. I think it’s probably too soon to give an opinion on [the motorcycle event]. We’re going to start sitting down with elected officials and with the public to see how they feel and move from there.”

Worley and Lazarus said they had walked around the area with Harley Davidson representatives earlier this week, and they are most interested in the Main Street area of the city. The event would be aimed at the 10,000-person Harley Owners Group, which Worley said was much smaller than the traditional Myrtle Beach rally and a different group of bikers.

“You’re not going to have Jello wrestling or bikini bike washes,” Lazarus said.

“And this isn’t a long term commitment. We’re asking to try it for this one year, and then if you don’t like it, if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t have to happen again.”

Worley said the Harley representatives are also looking at New Orleans and Ocean City, Md., but have told them that North Myrtle Beach is their first choice. The event would take place on the site of the O.D. Pavilion and Amusement Park, which Worley and Lazarus worked to open as a pilot project last year at the end of Main Street on Ocean Drive. The two plan to open the amusement park for Memorial Day weekend and asked the Harley group to organize their event the weekend before Memorial Day.

If approved, the event would officially open on Wednesday, May 19 and run through Sunday, May 23. Lazarus said the pavilion would then set up all its games, rides and other areas during the next five days before opening its season on Friday, May 28. The Harley-Davidson spring Rally, which after several ordinances were passed inside Myrtle Beach city limits and in the county, focused its smaller attendance last year in the Murrells Inlet and South Strand areas as well as Barefoot Landing, is scheduled to start on May 7 and run through May 16. The Memorial Day Bikefest in Atlantic Beach would start a few days after the North Myrtle Beach event.

Rally promoter Mike Shank said if the North Myrtle Beach event is going to happen, the city and the organizers are in crunch time.

“If it takes an ordinance and you have to have three readings, the earliest they could start that process is probably January. That would put them into mid February, which would be a real time crunch for promoting and organizing the event,” he said. “Starting a venue from scratch was never easy in the best of times of Bike Week. I think that would be a great venue, and I think with the reduced crowd, they wouldn’t have to worry about excessive noise or whatever. We are coming down to an excessive time crunch.”

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