OCEAN CITY — The 2014 Bikes to the Beach Spring Rally built upon the success of the last few years, according to event organizers, and the event’s future looks bright with new markets and promotion opportunities already being discussed.
Despite some uncooperative weather a few nights during the event’s April 24- 27 run, turnout was on par with last year and enthusiasm was high, said Bobby Riccio, owner of Oasis Bar ‘N’ Grill and one of the minds behind Bikes to the Beach. While Riccio plays a part in organizing the event, he made it clear that any success the rally has should be chalked up to the 40 or so businesses and groups that collaborate on the event.
“Our biggest asset is having all of the other business owners, the hotel owners, restaurants and bars and other businesses help to promote it, help to build the event,” he said.
The rally is organized by Oasis and Hooper’s Crab House but is heavily influenced by the ideas and strategies of its many partners.
“We’re looking at different options and opportunities. We’re not just, ‘daddy knows best,’” said Riccio. “We listen to these people and we encourage more people to call us, to be part of it and to come with ideas.”
One of those new ideas this year was a contest spanning the entire rally with the grand prize of a week’s cruise around the Bahamas.
“We had a token this year that you could turn into the bars and restaurants that were participating,” Riccio said. “For every $10 you spent at a sponsor location, you had a chance to win the cruise.”
That idea came from one of the rally’s partners and proved extremely popular. Participants in the rally were given one entry into the contest for every $10 they spent at establishments associated with Bikes to the Beach.
The winner of that grand prize was Don Gill from York, Pa., but there were plenty of other winners of smaller contests during the rally. Over the course of the four-day celebration, there was also a poker run, custom bike show, live music, model meet and greets and a huge number of drink, food and merchandise specials at each of the participating restaurants, hotels, bars and others venues.
Though the spring rally is strong, it’s not yet up to the numbers seen by the Bikes to the Beach autumn event. But Riccio hopes that the spring festival will continue to grow and catch up. New markets are being explored for next year with organizing looking at advertising further out to Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Businesses from other local markets like Salisbury and parts of Delaware have also expressed interest in becoming associated with the event in the future.
Everything revolves around the simple concept of slicing away at those shoulder seasons when the Eastern Shore grinds to a halt before summer tourism kicks in. By having a large event in April, Riccio pointed out the spring rally tries to jumpstart the summer business.
“We’re local businesses in the county trying to create an event pretty much a month before anything is going on in Ocean City,” he said.
There is a degree of hesitation among some businesses who either don’t think it’s possible to jump the season in April or don’t want to promote to bikers. But Riccio stands behind the idea on both counts.
“Five years ago what was anybody doing at the end of April, salivating waiting for Memorial Day to come?” he asked. “So instead of being a naysayer maybe participate and help out and help grow the event so that there is something that could be fruitful for their business.”
The numbers for participating businesses have been strong and most will likely show a clear rise from where they were prior to Bikes to the Beach Spring Rally, predicted Riccio.
“We’re trying to grow it to really make it the new kick off for all of the business owners. I’d really like to challenge all of the people who questioned if this was good, bad or indifferent,” he said, “I’d like to challenge them to look at their numbers for the last weekend in April four years ago or five years ago and compare to what it’s been for the last few years.”
Riccio pointed out the bikers that come to the spring and fall events aren’t just leather wearing tough guys looking for fistfights but are instead average visitors who simply put a large emphasis on freedom, both of expression and movement. Any business from a bar to a coffee house to a hobby store could benefit from being part of Bikes to the Beach, according to Riccio.
“These people are regular people like you and I. That’s what it boils down to,” he said. “These bikers are consumers, they’re consuming rooms, they’re consuming entertainment and they’re consuming food and beverages.”
Even at Oasis, Riccio said it’s not unusual to see an even mix of bikers, lawyers, visitors and locals.
“I want everybody to come out. I get just as many cars parked out there as I do bikes,” he said.
In the next few years, the focus will be to add markets, sponsors and business partners to the spring rally. The fall event will also be important for organizers, though Riccio noted that oddly enough the two events seem to draw a different clientele, possibly because of how people are scheduling their vacations. This means that both events aren’t drawing from the same pool and are helping to better spread the word of mouth of the independent rallies.
The dream, added Riccio, is to have dozens more businesses join with Bikes to the Beach to work on a large-scale, impactful cross-promotion.
“We’re going to try to expand to other areas because these bikers like to ride,” he said.