BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Bike Week 2018 was the 77th annual edition of the event and it roared through Volusia County from March 9-18.
This year crowds appeared larger along Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard (historically Second Avenue) where the activities take place in the heart of Daytona Beach’s Black community.
Historically, the second weekend of the event is unofficially known as “Black Bike Week’’ and the peak time for bikers to invade the area.
“The crowd is definitely larger this year. People really started packing in on Wednesday and Thursday. People need to realize that many bikers who live in cooler climates like to come here for warmer weather during this event,” said Barbara Turner-Hymes, the events coordinator for the Second Avenue Merchants Association (SAMA).
SAMA is a non-profit organization that organizes the events along Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard.
A good time
Bikers themselves seemed to enjoy the larger turnout as well as the whole vibe of Bike Week.
“The crowd does look larger this year. It’s good coming here every year. It’s all about the scenery. Everything that we have is right here in the vicinity. That’s food, drinks, vendors and more,” said “Voodoo’’ of the Southside Riders of Tampa.
Hank of Rare Breed out of Miami shared, “I think the crowds are looking bigger. I’ve been coming here since 2006. Everything is good here. We are enjoying ourselves, family, our club and the whole entire thing. Daytona has been good to us.”
Also, alcoholic beverages were available on the boulevard. Leading up to the event, there were concerns of a dry Bike Week as organizers scrambled to find a liquor vendor.
Bruce McNorton’s C29 Event Center, which is located at the old Singleton’s Cleaners at 551 Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd., was the alcohol vendor for SAMA.
The new establishment, which McNorton wants to make a sports bar, is owned by the former NFL player from Daytona.
“I think having a place where people could buy alcohol kept people around and on the Avenue even more. I think the crowds were definitely larger in my eyes,’’ McNorton said.
“People knew that they could get a drink, walk the strip, hangout and come back and get a drink. We’ve even had a good number of White bikers come and mingle. People have also been calling others to let them know that Daytona is the place to be for Bike Week, so come on over,’’ he added.
There also were no incidents or problems reported with law enforcement in the Black community.
“We’ve been getting compliments about the event as well as the friendliness of the police department. When you give respect, you get respect,” said Turner-Hymes.
McNorton echoed, “Law enforcement has done a great job. There have been no complaints about them. They are policing but being fair.”
Police also enjoyed the crowd and patrolling the event.
“The crowds looked larger along MMB, especially on Saturday night. It was still crowded at 2 a.m. I’ve been patrolling Bike Week in that area for 25 years. The crowd was excellent. People really engaged with our officers,” noted Daytona Police Chief Craig Capri.
Made rent back
Bike Week was also good for vendors.
A woman who identified herself as “Love’’ co-owns Boal Express, which is located in Bradenton with her husband, Moudosar.
They sold handbags, incense, oils, shea butter, African soap, Obama purses, jewelry accessories, dashikis and other items.
She said, “Daytona has definitely shown great hospitality. Business is going well. I ate well. We’ve already made back the lot rent. It’s been a great atmosphere with no problems, incidents or conflicts.”
Toya Smith is the manager of Hook Em Up Seafood & More out of Jacksonville, which sold shrimp, oysters, fries, chicken wings and more.
Smith echoed, “It’s been just busy, busy and busy for us. We haven’t had a break on this Saturday. We came last weekend, but things were slow. We returned Wednesday and we’ve done quite well.”
However, vendors overall were down this year.
Turner-Hymes confirmed, “Vendors are actually down. We lost a few vendors who would normally be here but went to the Jazz in the Gardens event in Miami. On the flip side, we did have some vendors do extremely well. We had two food vendors that sold out on Friday night.”
Other businesses along MMB also took advantage of Bike Week outside of SAMA’s umbrella.
Patricia Heard owns Second Avenue Plaza. She sold retail items while vendors sold T-shirts, food, installed lights on bikes and more.
“I do think that this year’s crowd was bigger. Everything is going pretty well and the entire event is under control. We want to do even better next year,” noted Heard.
SAMA wants to see Bike Week grow. The association also is looking at adding more events throughout the year.
Turner-Hymes expressed, “I think things will grow. We have more merchants getting on board for Bike Week. We want to do more events to help Bike Week grow.
“We also need to do more events throughout the year. We are looking at bringing back SAMA Fest. We want to do things that will benefit the community. We want to build events in this community that won’t make us so depended on just Bike Week. This is a blighted area and it’s harder to do things over here,’’ she added.