BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The 78th edition of Bike Week in Volusia County is now history.
The Second Avenue Merchants Association (SAMA), which is in charge of organizing events along Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard (MMB) is calling this year’s event a success.
The last weekend, historically known as “Black Bike Week,’’ yielded large crowds on MMB (formerly Second Avenue). The area was the hub of biker activity in the Black community during the second and final weekend, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
“Crowds were larger this year. We also believe that since over the past four to five years Bike Week has had to compete with Jazz in the Gardens event down in Miami,” Barbara TurnerHymes, SAMA’s event coordinator, told the Daytona Times.
“This year, Jazz in the Gardens took place a week earlier, which brought more people, bikers and vendors here.”
The two-week Bike Week is an economic engine that brings in an estimated $75 million into the local economy. This year’s event was March 8-17.
“We did have more vendors than usual and people were able to make something, but we still have some work to do,” TurnerHymes admitted.
Victor Engram, president of the Sunchasers Motorcycle Club, attributed the larger crowds to better weather and better finances for bikers.
“The crowds were definitely larger with a lot of people coming in. You definitely saw that on Friday and Saturday during the peak time. It seemed the weekend warriors were pouring in,” said Engram. The Sunshasers is made up primarily of African-American male bikers.
“We also had a lot of activities at our clubhouse both weekends since there were people here.’’
They came earlier
Engram believes that there are two reasons for the larger turnout this year.
“I think the weather was good this year. In previous years, we had hurricanes, which people were still recovering from at the time. There were also more vendors this year too,” he explained.
“I also think the economy is good and people who came had money to spend instead of being stressed about money or a job. I think the older crowd came in earlier than usual,’’ he added.
Local business owners also were pleased with the larger crowds.
“Overall, everything went well. The crowds were definitely here. A lot of people came in early and there were many here in mobile homes,” said Patricia Heard, owner of the Second Avenue Plaza.
‘No major problems’
Law enforcement also noted larger crowds but had no official estimates.
“Crowds were definitely larger, especially on the second weekend along MMB. It got busy on Wednesday compared to the normal Thursday. The weather was perfect. We had no major problems,” said Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri.
“We had one arrest maybe and it was a local. Main Street was packed too, but MMB looked more packed. The crowds on MMB were better than Main Street as far as policing.”
For vendors, the last weekend kept them quite busy.
“I definitely see the crowds were larger despite having my head down serving food most of the time,” said Darien Rogers, owner D&I Seafood Plus.
Chris Helton and his father, Charlie, are both bikers and vendors. They work on motorcycle sound systems through their business, Xclusiv Sounds.
“It was great. The crowds were decent the first weekend, but the second weekend from Wednesday through Saturday it was a capacity kind of crowd,” said Chris Helton.
However, the larger crowds yielded mixed results for the vendors’ bottom line.
“There were larger crowds, but there were also a lot more food vendors in the area too. Money was made, but it was spread around. Still, it was a success for our business as a vendor. I think Bike Week itself was a success overall,” Rogers noted.
Bethune Grill is located on MMB and had a food truck on the boulevard in the midst of the biker activity.
“Bike Week is kind of an even draw for us. Our shop is busy, but there are more food choices in town. Some locals stick with us and Bethune-Cookman students are gone for spring break,” noted Rosemary Jenkins, manager of Bethune Grill.
“We had some bikers come to our shop. … Our Bike Week boost comes from the truck on Saturday and sometimes that Friday too.’’
Chris Helton of Atlanta noted though for his sound system business, there was little competition.
“For us, we’re in a unique situation … so we do quite well business-wise. For us, it’s great,’’ he added.