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The Politics of Myrtle Beach
Publish date: Apr 24, 2009
By: Holly J. Wagner
Source: Dealernews
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You know that game where you add the words “in bed” after you read your fortune from the fortune cookie? Play it once, and you'll think of it every time. That’s sort of the mood in Myrtle Beach as communities in the area prepare for the annual May biker events.

City officials in Myrtle Beach have piled on a raft of 15 controversial ordinances aimed at curbing rallies in the city. Horry County and some other municipalities have followed suit. The new rules crack down on everything from eyewear and helmets to noise and outdoor gatherings, an effort city officials don’t deny is aimed at pushing bikers out of the city.

Nobody wants to come right out and say the city’s new laws are racially motivated. But whenever people discuss complaints about the rallies, the sentence seems to end with “especially Memorial Day weekend” or “especially Atlantic Beach.” Everyone knows what that means. But that’s only part of the story.

Rally Roots
To understand the tension today, you have to look at the history of motorcycle rallies in Myrtle Beach.

The Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association has held its rallies in the area for 69 years. Over time, the duration of the event grew from a couple of days to closer to a week.

Atlantic Beach, a township known as a beach spot for black visitors since the days of segregation, had been losing its tourism base for decades as emerging civil rights laws ended beach segregation. In 1980 locals decided to start the Memorial Day rally to bring in much-needed cash. To this day, the rally is a main source of revenue for the six-square-block community that seems to teeter perpetually on the brink of bankruptcy.

Four years ago, disputes over traffic enforcement during the rallies prompted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to sue Myrtle Beach. The case was resolved with a non-financial settlement that included the city promising to implement the same traffic management plan from 2 p.m. to midnight for three days of each rally.

While official policies remained the same, some rally veterans say law enforcement became lax after the lawsuit, a claim the city’s police department spokesman denies. Over Memorial Day weekend 2008, a Coastal Carolina College student was shot to death in a dispute over a parking space. A Myrtle Beach resident has been charged with the crime, but city officials got the complaints about bike week rowdiness nevertheless.

“Every rally has a group that would like less people, and would like them more under control or eliminated. I guess this was their opportunity,” says Mike Shank, event promoter and marketing director for Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson. Shank is the plaintiff in one of four lawsuits filed to challenge the new ordinances the city passed last September, especially the helmet law (which conflicts with state law) and a hearing process the city has since agreed to revise. Shank also once did event promotion for the city.

“This has been building for a number of years. That the city finally decided that it didn’t want to be the center of three back-to-back rallies should not surprise anyone,” says Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea. “The residents came and asked for it.”

The City Council was amending the ordinances as late as April 28 but had made it clear long before that the rallies are no longer welcome in the city of Myrtle Beach. “If these events were three, four five days apiece and spread out a bit, I doubt we’d be having this conversation,” Kruea says. “It’s too big, too loud too long. And sadly, it’s deadly. Typically we would have as many [traffic] fatalities during those three weeks as we had the rest of the year.”

Ebony vs. Ivory? Try Generation Gap
The fact that the two almost-merged May rallies have become known as “Harley Week” and “Black Bike Week” does nothing to soothe raw nerves, and in fact it may obscure another, perhaps more important divide: age.

Traditionally the Cruisin’ the Coast rallies have catered to Harley and metric riders, promoter Sonny Copeland says. Most dealers acknowledge that the H-D crowd borders on the 50-and-over, while other rallies springing up appeal to a younger, sometimes raunchier crowd.

(Bands at the Harley rallies offer one clue: headliners are likely to include Aerosmith, Cheap Trick or Eddie Money, and rally-goers think Black-Eyed Peas and Eminem are snacks.)

“The Bike Weeks are dying down on their own. There is no young generation coming in behind us. There are no young (20- and 30-year-old) people at the Harley rallies,” Copeland says. “Look at the pictures. Everyone’s got gray hair or is going bald.”

With age and affluence, the H-D crowd has turned the parties down a notch. “The people that can afford a $70,000 bike act one way. The people that can afford a $5,000 bike are the young people who are just starting out in their life. They’ve got women on the brain. They [think they’re] bulletproof. But nobody will ever see it that way -- it’s just white and black,” laments “Doghouse Dave” Ankin, who owns the Doghouse North and two other bars in the area. He estimates the Dog House North takes in $1.2 million during the spring rallies each year.

Ankin and others fear the bad publicity will scare off attendees, and there’s some evidence to support their claims.

“There is a lot of negativity in talking to people who say they don’t know if they are coming this year. They aren’t saying it’s the economy,” says Jon Martin, owner of Myrtle West Cycle. “I’m talking to a lot of the custom bike builders, and they are having doubts. They don’t want to come and be harassed.

“The problems of Memorial Day weekend do not lie within the bikers. The problem with Myrtle Beach and Memorial Day weekend is the carloads of people who come in, [who] are drinking in their cars and [who] just come here to party,” he adds. “They’re still coming. They’re not going to get a ticket for not having a helmet or too many bikes in a parking space.”

There’s a bitter irony in this age dilemma. Forty years ago, soldiers were returning from Vietnam, buying Harleys and hitting the road. They shook off conventions, gained a reputation for independence, drugs and uncontrolled hair, and in some cases violent gang activity. For a while, the idea of having to face a cluster of Hells Angels was a national fear.

Today soldiers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, buying crotch rockets and hitting the roads. Like the generation before them, they come to party. The U.S. military has acknowledged the new breed of adrenaline junkies the Middle Eastern wars are creating, and is offering special courses for returning soldiers.

“Though the Harley riders are defiant, they do it discreetly and they do it behind closed doors. My customers are always wonderful and respectful,” says “Jamin’ Jamie” Keats, owner of Jamin’ Leather, which provides event maps and an online rally schedule. “They may do their ride around Myrtle Beach and stand on the corner and voice their opinions. That’s all it will be.

“It’s the younger crowd that comes to Myrtle Beach that really scares us,” he says. “They are in their SUVs and swinging guns. [The city] wants to generalize and say it’s bikers, but they forget. It’s the people in cars.”

Even the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association, which started the area’s rally culture, has moved its 69th rally to New Bern, N.C., to avoid the atmosphere of the bigger rallies.

“We tend to lean more toward a family-style atmosphere vs. the other behavior that goes along with rallies,” says Mark Cox, president of the association. “The mindset is [that] Myrtle Beach offers a lot of partying and bar atmosphere and that type of night life. I enjoy getting into that mix sometimes, too. But we tend to want to keep our rallies more around motorcycling and identifying our HOG members with the dealers.”

Where It All Began?
At Ground Zero of the rally controversy is sleepy, financially strapped and politically impotent Atlantic Beach. The township has just 333 registered voters and leadership is a revolving door. Just 114 people voted in the November presidential election, and only 68 voted in an April 14 special election for a Town Council seat. That seat — slated for a runoff in late April — could control the future of South Carolina’s “Black Pearl.” Or not.

See Part 2 for ciontinuation
 

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lets see

there are 1937 places that actualy want bikes and the money we spend

rogers arkansas and woodbourne new york for two

how about we just go there, and screw mb,sc

they can have their politics and rules all by themselves
 

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lets see

there are 1937 places that actualy want bikes and the money we spend

rogers arkansas and woodbourne new york for two

how about we just go there, and screw mb,sc

they can have their politics and rules all by themselves
Copy that! I never went to Myrtle on the bike before or after the sanctions. I can spend my money where I am appreciated.

There has always been a "bad" crowd mixed into the youngster's groups since many moons ago. I didn't like them back in the day and I steer clear of them today.

When you can't speak to people about borderline behavior without them answering with weapons, it is time to say goodbye.
 

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:shock: Dang, here I am sitting in a beach hotel at a Gold Wing rally in Myrtle Beach as I type this. This situation must be a coming attraction. We have been welcomed at every place we've stopped at in Myrtle Beach and they seem to be happy we are spending money here.:shrug: The LEO's have all waved to us as we ride through town. :? Never mind, I forgot most of us are old, fat and ugly so we probably don't count.:yes:
 

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I think all cities have a love/hate relationship with things like this whether its biker related or not. They love the income (and some actually participate in the events), but don't like the inconvenience. Some rally goers do things to wear out their welcome and that ruins it for everyone. If only people could behave.
 

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I agree with Loren, if they don't want bikers there F*** EM!
 

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Go to Myrtle Beach

My wife and I got to MB about 4 times a year because we like it the town. Over the last year I have kept watch on the policitc there. It is quite apparent that they have an issue with the Atlantic Beach Bike week, but cannot come out and say so because of their recent problems with the NAACP. To soften their blow the embellished the facts concerning Harley Week to make it look like it is a bigger problem.

Probably every business we visited looks forward to the bikers and unfortunately some will tell you, "its not the Harleys it the other one." This practice of trying to stiop one on the shoulders of another my come back to bite them like some of the ordinances have and will.

For instance, if I pay and park my Goldwing and walk off I am legal. But who gets a ticket when another bike rides up and decides he wants to share my spot. The Supreme Court already chastized them about the administrative court.

During the opening night of the baseball season folks could not have a tailgate party. Why? Because the ordinance prohibiting outdoor parties also prohibits tailgating. When the Council realized it they said they would have to review the ordinance because they did not mean for it to cover ballgames.

The bottom line is hardly any events are atually held in the city limits. City council and a few businesses reak of racism by trying to rid the town of Atlantic Beach of its bike week. They even offered them management services for free if they would ban bike week. Bikers are wlecomed in the Myrtle Beach area and while everyone is entitled to their opinion I will be there come May 13th

The best defense is a a good offense. If you feel they don't want us by God show up and support the businesses that support us.:coffee1:
 

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Without exception we have always felt welcome at every town that has had a gathering. My experience is with Falls Creek Falls, Wisconsin Dells, Rogers, Harrison, Henderson, Gutenberg/Townsend and a few others that I can't think of right now. I've never been to MB for a bike function, but I have been there on the bike. I was not impressed with that place anyway. It's there loss, not mine.
 
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