Bike Week revving up despite pandemic

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Bikers brake this week along International Speedway Boulevard.
DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

Activities have been picking up for Bike Week 2021 in Daytona’s Black community.

After a slow first weekend, bikers, vendors and crowds were starting to roll into Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard (MMB) where the hub of biker activity occurs in the Black community.

Bike Week brings about 500,000 bikers to Daytona Beach and the Volusia County area. This year 300,000 are expected.

Historically, the second weekend of the event is busiest. The 10-day event runs March 5-14.

Vacation time

James Vann is from New York. He was chilling on his bike and having a meal with friends on MMB near Moe’s Market (Pearson’s Food Town) on Tuesday afternoon.

It’s his sixth straight year at Bike Week in Daytona.

“We just come for the camaraderie with bikers. We hang out, drink, party and have a good time. I think this is better than Myrtle Beach,” Vann told the Daytona Times.

Jimmy Wright is from Alapaha, Georgia. He has been attending Bike Week for 20 years. He camps at the corner of Green Street and Third Avenue.

“I’m just taking a vacation here,” Wright said. “I always come to Bike Week. I think this is a place to come and relax. I stay for a week, about nine days.”

‘Masked up’

Bikers say they are trying to adhere to safety precautions. “I’m always aware of it all the times. I just try to keep my distance and stay safe. It is what it is,” said Wright.

“We try to stay masked up and practice social distancing,” said Vann. “We got tested before we got here. We’ll do the same before we leave.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the aroma of food, sound of music and roar of bikes were in the air on MMB. Local vendors were already setting up while non-locals were coming in.

Vendors’ hope

Paco Juf is a Daytona resident with roots in Senegal, West Africa. He sells African jewelry and clothing outside of the C-29 in the old Singleton Cleaners building.

“We are hoping that people come. I think the whole world will be watching Daytona Beach for Bike Week. This is a fun event,” Juf said. “It’s all about friendship and family.”

Franklin Benjamin is also a Daytona native. He is selling food through A Tastee Barbeque. His tent is near the corner of Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard and Walnut Street.

“We are out here selling food. We are hoping for a good crowd. We are hoping to make a profit,” Benjamin said.

Money lost in 2020

Some vendors are still miffed from last year when the city pulled permits shutting things down on the last and biggest night of the event.

“We hope what happened last year doesn’t happen this year. We were shut down. We were told we were getting 50 percent off our vendors fee but didn’t. This year they didn’t say that. I lost a lot of money,” said Juf.

Benjamin added, “I’m not upset about last year. I did lose money last year but not like my friends from Jacksonville. They lost $2,500.’’

Optimistic organizers

The Second Avenue Merchants Association (SAMA) is a non-profit organization comprised of Black owned businesses on MMB.

The non-profit organizes the biker events in the Black community.

“I pray that the bikers and vendors really trickle in. We need them. Things are really bad right now,” said Barbara Turner-Hymes, SAMA’s spokesperson.

C-Styles Entertainment handles entertainment for SAMA. The entertainment takes place at the corner of MMB and Walnut Street. Scheduled are live music performances, line dancing and a deejay.

This year the Daytona Beach City Commission has certain coronavirus safety protocols in place.

Businesses with permits are allowed to operate at 60 percent of their maximum occupancy.

Safety precautions

SAMA is spacing out vendors to ensure social distancing.

“We have masks and hand sanitizer like most of the vendors do. Hopefully, that helps. Also, the CDC says that those who are vaccinated can be gather together which gives some hope,” Turner-Hymes said.

Chester McNorton owns C-29 (formerly Singleton Cleaners), a social style club on the Boulevard. C-29 and the Midtown Community Development Corporation tent are the only places that alcohol can be purchased during Bike Week in the area.

“I hope that we can enjoy ourselves and be safe. We must wear masks and social distance. We don’t anticipate the record crowds, but I think a good amount of people will come,” said McNorton.

SAMA also hopes to avoid a shut down like last year.

“There are those who usually come that have already decided not to come. Mainly those living further away. I don’t think vendors are angry from last year but for some it’s too far to come and get shut down. We hope that doesn’t happen,” added Turner-Hymes. 

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