After 68 years in Horry County, the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers’ Association motorcycle rally is hitting the road.
“We’re getting away from Myrtle Beach,” said Gene Lummus, past president of the dealers’ association. “We just want to take our 4,000 to 6,000 core customers and go.”
The association announced Monday it will move its May rally to New Bern, N.C., a town where it said it feels welcome.
The dealers’ association, which has sponsored the oldest and shortest of the May events, said it would hold this year’s rally May 15 and 16 at the New Bern Fairgrounds.
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Lummus said New Bern has a waterfront, plenty of hotel rooms and history, and Myrtle Beach had made it clear the rallies were no longer wanted.
“They passed all these silly laws. They said we ruined their May. So we talked about it and decided to oblige them,” Lummus said.
This doesn’t mean Myrtle Beach won’t see any Harleys this May. Mike Shank, who owns Festival Promotions and promotes events for Harley-Davidson of Myrtle Beach, said he and Harley dealership owner Phil Schoonover have not considered moving their Cruising the Coast Spring Bike Week, which is the bigger rally and usually lasts 10 days.
The dealers’ association rally, which in Horry County never expanded beyond four days, was the original draw for what grew to bring nearly 300,000 people each spring. The event got folded in with the events sponsored by Harley-Davidson of Myrtle Beach, and though in years past the dealers’ association set up at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, last year it chose to set up a simple T-shirt stand at Hard Rock Park.
Even though Horry County has changed the maximum days for an event permit to six, Shank said he anticipates there will be motorcyclists in the county for 10 days starting in early May, and, so far, there has been no word on whether the three-day Atlantic Beach Bike Week, always held during Memorial Day weekend, will change dates.
Shank said he doesn’t think the Carolina Dealers’ Association rally’s move will affect the Cruising the Coast event.
All of this is in response to Myrtle Beach’s efforts to curb the May rallies. On Saturday, the day the city’s helmet ordinance took effect, Myrtle Beach police officers gave out 57 tickets for riders who allegedly violated the ordinance, five written warnings and one parking warning during a protest ride from Murrells Inlet along Ocean Boulevard and back down U.S. 17 Bypass.
The helmet law was one of 15 ordinances and amendments the City Council passed after last May’s gatherings.
Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said he hopes the Carolina Dealers’ Association rally succeeds in New Bern.
“They have the opportunity to break away from the other group that extended the rally out — which the dealers’ association never wanted to do,” Rhodes said.
New Bern’s Mayor T.A. Bayliss said this week he is happy to welcome the rally to his town in Craven County, N.C., about 170 miles north of Myrtle Beach.
“We are pleased and honored that you have chosen to hold your rally in our city,” he said in the dealers’ association news release, “and we pledge our total cooperation in making your rally a most pleasurable and memorable occasion for all in attendance.”