Bike Week ends on dry note for residents, vendors due to virus

While this year’s celebration, may not have ended on a high note, I am truly grateful that the city kept the health of the residents in mind in such a dire situation. See you in October Bikers!

This past weekend was an annual tradition in Daytona Beach. Bikers, tourists and vendors from all over the United States came to our city to celebrate community, culture and the love of motorcycles.

For nearly 75 years, Bike Week has been a hub for business owners, particularly Black and minority business owners, who depend on the revenue and exposure of the event to not only fund their businesses, but to ultimately feed their families.

As usual, the week began with bikers riding in early in the week and vendors setting up all along Main Street, International Speedway, and most importantly Mary Mcleod Bethune Boulevard.

For that area of town, Bike Week represents more than just a week-long celebration, it represents a week-long escape from the constant trials, tribulations and hardships from living in an impoverished community.

A rude awakening

This year, vendors were in for a rude awakening. As per local declaration, the city of Daytona Beach decided to cancel and pull all Daytona Beach event permits due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While most vendors in other sides of town got to enjoy the majority of the week’s visits and revenue, the midtown  vendors decide to only come for that weekend, due to astronomical vending and insurance fees.

Many vendors openly showed their disdain for the public declaration as other areas of the city were still selling items such as merchandise, liquor and food, well past the city’s declaration. On the city’s Facebook page, many residents were torn by the decision.

With one social media user stating, “the city had 7 days to properly make a decision before waiting until the final moment,’’ while another countered with “the city made the best decision for the safety of its residents.’’

A rich history

Someone on the outside looking in would agree that the decision made was for the best. However, when you realize that only the vendors on Mary Mcleod Bethune Blvd were shut down makes you put things into perspective.

Daytona’s history with Black bikers in general has been long applauded and celebrated throughout the nation. As Bike Week has become a local holiday of sorts, it’s also brought its list of notable bike clubs.

From the historic Silver Dollar Club to the Sunchasers, residents have become accustomed to seeing the rows of beautifully crafted and designed motorcycles from across the nation. From groups doing the electric slide, to the fraternities stepping, there is always a wide variety of attractions and unique talent on display during the famous week.

Like a Disney trip

As a little boy growing up in Caroline Village, Bike Week, as well as Biketober Fest was, and still is like Disney for a lot of us. When we didn’t have the financial means to go out of town for festivals and events, coming on “The Ave” represented everything it meant to be a Daytona resident.

I still remember taking pictures, eating funnel cakes and buying my first wallet as a young man during Bike Week. For a community that commonly gets shafted, it truly feels good to see so much love, unity, laughing and camaraderie among fellow citizens.

The sound of good music, the smell of good food and the overall feeling of celebration is truly a motivator for residents to get involved with their community.

Priceless advertising

Events such as Bike Week are not only crucial for our city’s final and economic development, it’s as crucial for its social and networking purposes. As a young entrepreneur, I look forward to the last Saturday of Bike Week specifically to pass out information, usually flyers for my non-profit organization’s upcoming events and programs.

Each year we host the Malcolm X Day community celebration and we depend on the connections we make with residents and vendors during Bike Week to secure support for the event.

Small business funding

This year, unfortunately, we weren’t able to make that happen due to the revocation of permits, which caused vendors to pack up and leave before the real crowd even got into town.

The promotion from advertising your business or products during Bike Week is literally
priceless, as thousands of visitors with disposable income come for one reason and one reason only, to spend money in Daytona Beach.

For the vendors who missed out on the final two nights, there is hope. Due to the current situation in the country being declared as a national emergency, there is funding available for small businesses who have been affected by the disaster.

While this year’s celebration, may not have ended on a high note, I am truly grateful that the city kept the health of the residents in mind in such a dire situation. See you in October Bikers!

Rell Black is an award-winning activist, blogger and the founder of Community Healing Project Inc.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Excellent article young man! My mother sent me your article and we are so grateful that the youth are speaking up. I see a great future in politics for you. Hope they’re treating you well at the paper. God bless, Mrs Doyle

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