BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Bike Week 2021 had large crowds, tricked-out bikes and plenty of entertainment. Most of all, Bike Week brought a much welcome economic boost, helping local and visiting vendors.
Historically, the event brings 500,000 bikers to Daytona Beach and Volusia County; this year crowds were estimated at 300,000.
Large crowds were on Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard (historically Second Avenue) during the second and final weekend of the 10-day event.
On MMB Boulevard, between the railroad tracks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, is where the hub of biker activity takes place in the Black community.
Food vendors, particularly those at the corner with Walnut Street near the staged entertainment area, had long lines most of the weekend.
“We had a great weekend. We were set up since Monday. I can’t complain,” said Greg Lewis, Jr., owner of the local Greg’s Seafood. “It was definitely a boost for business. There weren’t as many vendors this year.”
Robert Thomas, owner of Hook ‘Em Up Seafood from Jacksonville, added, “We had a great weekend, which was really a boost for business. It’s welcomed.”
Another food vendor with local ties, A Tastee Barbeque, also fared well. It reportedly sold out late Friday night and reopened Saturday afternoon.
C-Styles Entertainment, which handles entertainment in the area, also reported good crowds with 6 p.m. really jumping things off.
It was the 15th consecutive Bike Week for Lewis and sixth for Thomas.
“It’s been great. We love coming to Bike Week. We look forward to it every year. We have a great time, and we enjoy it,” responded Thomas.
Lewis echoed, “It’s been great historically except for last year when we were shut down on the last day.”
Mobile food businesses that frequently travel for events have really suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, business owners said.
Greg’s Seafood does Bike Week, Biketoberfest and many Native American festivals. “I do about 15 to 20 events a year. All of them were shut down over the last year due to the coronavirus,” Lewis said. “It’s been a tough year. Everyone’s had a tough year.”
Hook Em’ Up Seafood frequents Bike Week, Biketoberfest, Florida Classic, Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M homecomings.
Thomas expressed, “The coronavirus really has hit hard and hampered things. A lot of events that I would normally do have been stopped.”
Both started with humbling beginnings: Lewis started catering with his uncle 20 years ago and Thomas began at youth football games.
“I started doing hot dogs and burgers at Pop Warner football games in Jacksonville about six years ago. Things grew. Two years ago, I bought a food truck,” recalled Thomas.
“I started out selling food with my uncle at Jacksonville Jaguars football games 20 years ago,” Lewis added.
Vendors remember last year when they lost money after the city pulled permits shutting things during the final night of Bike Week, which is historically the biggest night.
“I did lose money last year, but I am not mad about it at all. I just move on. I wasn’t fearful of another shut down,” responded Thomas.
Lewis added, “Oh yeah, I lost a lot of money last year. I estimate around $5,000. I am not mad about it. You just have to move on and hope for the best. I wasn’t worried about a shut down this year.”
Bike Week also allows vendors and businesses to provide jobs for others.
‘It is a time to be able to provide employment for a short time for local people. It’s a good opportunity; especially right now when people can use such job opportunities,” Lewis said.
Some vendors make Bike Week a family affair.
“I bring eight family members to work with me every year. We enjoy it. I am fortunate to provide them with an opportunity for employment temporarily,” Thomas said. And of course, Bike Week isn’t anything without the bikers.
A biker named Czar brought his wife from Jacksonville for the eighth consecutive year.
“I like it, but it’s gotten out of hand. It’s really congested over here. It’s not like it used to be. We still come and have a good time. We come back,” Czar said.
Xavier Robinson of Atlanta is also an independent biker. It was his 10th consecutive Bike Week.
“Every year has been different, but it’s been cool. I love it. I come for the tradition, fun, bikes, atmosphere and being a part of something that I love,” said Robinson.
Most bikers masked up, but others didn’t.
“I am absolutely concerned about the virus. I’ve tried to be safe. The places that I have been pretty much were. I hope others do as well,” stressed Robinson.
Czar added, “I’m concerned about coronavirus, but (Governor Ron) DeSantis has opened the state and there are a lot of people who just don’t care.”