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Crowd at Atlantic Beach BikeFest breaks records this year

Memorial Day South Carolina

Motorcyclists ride in to Atlantic Beach, despite the annual Bikefest event being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on May 29, 2021. Jason Lee/The Sun News via AP

MYRTLE BEACH – After two years of being canceled, BikeFest was a success this year with record crowds, making Atlantic Beach city officials optimistic for the event’s future.

This year’s BikeFest saw an estimated 10,000 people on Friday and Sunday, and an estimated 20,000 people on Saturday. When the festival first started 42 years ago by the Carolina Knight Riders motorcycle club, more than 100 people attended.

Atlantic Beach Town Manager Benjamin Quattlebaum said that this year’s estimated crowd of 20,000 on Saturday marked record daily highs for the festival. Although attendance is not officially tracked, he said, an estimated 100,000 people passed through Atlantic Beach over the four days.

He also noted the success of the 59 paid vendors for this year’s event. In 2019, the festival had 65 paid vendors.

“It was one of the most successful events that we’ve had, partly due to a two-year hiatus due to COVID,” Quattlebaum said. “The turnout and participation on the part of patrons was at record numbers, especially in the evening for entertainment."

"Most of the vendors reported they did very well," he added, "and we think that will bode well for greater participation from vendors in the future.”

The May festival came months after town officials approved a ban on the open carry of firearms in response to a law passed last year by the state legislature, which made it legal to carry a firearm openly if the owner receives training.

This year, hundreds of officers from outside police agencies helped with crowd and traffic control along U.S. Highway 17, and Atlantic Beach Police Chief Quentin Robinson confirmed there were no arrests made in town during the festival.

“The law enforcement officers who came down to help did a great job,” Robinson said. “The guys who came into town for the festival this year just came to enjoy themselves, have fun and not start trouble, and I appreciate that.”

Looking ahead to next year’s festival, Quattlebaum said that the city plans to look at its trash management. Although cleanup crews did well after the event, he said it is likely that the city exceeded its budget in terms of trash management and pickup.

“That was one of the immediate areas we would focus on and improve next year,” he said.

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 Follow Nicole Ziege on Twitter @NicoleZiege.