OCEAN CITY – The weather pulled through for bikers last weekend with BikeFest recording its best attendance yet and Delmarva Bike Week having its best turnout in years.
Last year was BikeFest’s first time in Ocean City. The event took place on the heels of a tornado and worked its way through a weekend of rain. In first introducing the event to Ocean City, event organizer Cliff Sutherland set a goal of 20,000 attendees but fell short with just 14,000, due to weather.
Despite getting off to a rocky start, BikeFest returned to Ocean City last weekend and Sutherland was happy to announced 23,000 attendees entered BikeFest at the Inlet and the convention center this year and predicted anther 25,000 attended outside of the paid entrance areas. All-in-all, he estimated over 125,000 bikers came to the region to participate in the shore’s Bike Week festivities.
“God sure helped with the weather,” Sutherland said. “It seemed to be the busiest Bike Week there has ever been.”
Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) Executive Director Susan Jones reported the association’s lodging members’ rooms were booked starting on Tuesday through Monday, although the event officially ran Thursday through Sunday.
“It was amazing,” she said. “Everybody had tons of business and did very well over the weekend.”
Jones added that while talking to visitors at the OCHMRA fundraising beer stand at the Inlet during the event she found most people were from out of town and decided to come to town early and stay late to avoid traffic.
Sutherland said there was no question that people were coming into town early last week and he noticed there was still a good amount of bikers on the road when he left on Tuesday.
Something he said was different from past years was that BikeFest marketed in areas near but mostly far resulting in attendance as far as Ohio, Indiana, Colorado and even Texas. Also, Pennsylvania and Virginia had a large population of attendees, according to Sutherland.
Sutherland announced that all scheduled bands and stunt teams performed well and all three locations, the Inlet, Jolly Roger and the convention center, were successful.
“The event at the Inlet worked really well this year,” he said. “People seemed to have fun, the entertainment was great. All of the performances from Jackyl to 38 Special to Charlie Daniels to Grand Funk Railroad, they were very well attended.”
Sutherland did admit to a couple of event hiccups, such as the event’s lay out at the convention center, but he and his team are already at work to improve that for next year’s event.
“You live and learn,” he said. “We certainly have a lot of new things planned for next year … and we are already working on Sept. 12-15 of next year, and we have a few surprises that we are working on.”
Sutherland shared a couple of stories from over the weekend. After Charlie Daniels finished playing on Saturday, he got on his motorcycle to ride up to the convention center to watch 38 Special and it took him at least 45 minutes to get there as a result of the congestion.
“It was all bikes,” he said. “People were talking stopped at red lights and this one guy looked over to me and said ‘Man, this is great. All rallies should be like this.’ Those are the moments that make it worthwhile, when you see people having fun.”
Sutherland added another heartwarming moment is in seeing so many heads in beds and restaurants full.
“On Monday, I went to Happy Jacks and every waitress in the place knew who we were and came over and thanked us,” he said. “They said it was the best weekend of the year for them in tips.”
The 12th Annual Delmarva Bike Week ran simultaneously with BikeFest. The event had four locations this year — Harley Davidson of Seaford, Seacrets in Ocean City and Winterplace Park and Perdue Stadium in Salisbury.
“The weather was absolutely perfect and the forecast was good so that gave people plenty of time to come down to Delmarva Bike Week,” event organizer Bruce Bennett said. “The customers that came seemed to be very happy. It was noticeable, just everybody was in a great mood, which means vendors are in a good mood and sponsors are in a good mood.”
Delmarva Bike Week is an open-gated event so there is no specific number in attendance, but Bennett said comparing the last four years while the economy has been on the decline, this year’s Bike Week has been the best by far.
“The feedback from the vendors in the number of people they were seeing was wonderful, and that is the barometer we use,” Bennett said. “The feedback from vendors was that they had a lot of customers and people were in a good mood and spending money and that means the event was successful.”
Despite the crowds in town, the demoflush average was down this year, resulting in an average of 198,488 over the weekend. In 2011, when it rained most of the weekend, demosflush reported an average of 210,280. Demoflush figures are estimations of populations based on wastewater flow.