N.Y. Bike Group Crowd Estimates Hover Around 2K

concern surfaced this week with rumors that tens of thousands of
African-Americans motorcycle enthusiasts were going to be roaring through the
streets of Ocean City on an already packed holiday weekend.

One simple phone call,
however, put a wrench in the rampant rumor mill as a more credible number of
bikers headed down for their second annual event, is more like 2,000 and not
20,000, according to event organizers.

“I’m not really sure
where those numbers are coming from,” said Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Imperial Bikers
public spokeswoman Tamika Gibbs. “If we had a thousand people here for our
first event in Ocean City last year, that probably would be generous, and this year,
we are expecting somewhere between two and three thousand. People look at the
huge event in Myrtle Beach, but they need to remember it took them 30 years to
get the event that big.”

In 2008, Myrtle Beach
public officials voted to instill 15 new traffic laws that basically put a
stranglehold on the hundreds of thousands of bikers that flocked to the resort
each Memorial Day weekend for the Atlantic Bike Beach Festival, or Black Bike
Week, which has become the largest of its kind in the world.

Myrtle Beach Mayor John
Rhodes was even quite forthright in the council’s intentions in 2008 and was
quoted as saying, “effective 2009, Myrtle Beach will no longer be hosting
motorcycle rallies of any kind. After many years, our residents grew weary of
three weeks of noise and traffic congestion each May, and they asked City
Council to end the events.”

Gibbs says that the
Myrtle Beach council’s new street laws, which included a new helmet law and
stricter noise and muffler requirements, turned a lot of people off to South
Carolina’s biggest resort, and they have since started moving to other resort
destinations, like Ocean City.

“The new rules didn’t
stop the event from happening each year in Myrtle Beach, but it has made people
not want to go and spend their money if the politicians didn’t want us there,”
said Gibbs. “The businesses liked having us there, but it’s their loss. We came
to Ocean City last year and just loved the family atmosphere and by how nice
and accommodating everyone was, from the police officers to the hotel and
restaurant people.”

The Stowaway Grand Hotel
will serve as the group’s official headquarters for the weekend, and, according
to General Manager Patrick Staib, the group came and went last season without
any incidents.

“I’ve heard some things that
people were worried about them coming here by the thousands but I don’t know
where that hullabaloo came from,” said Staib. “They were great last year, and
to be honest, with them here in the hotel, coupled with our regular bookings we
are looking at having one of our best Memorial Day weekends ever.”

Several other area
hotels are primed to be the satellite accommodation spots for the group as well
including the Dunes Manor Hotel, the Courtyard Marriott and the Holiday Inn on
66th street.

Staib believes that some
of the concern may have been linked to the fact that special events, either
planned or unplanned, are usually encouraged to come on non-holiday weekends as
hotels are usually much more prone to giving discounted group rates in the
shoulder seasons or on weekends that don’t fall on holidays.

Staib says that some
hotels, after the rough economic conditions for the past year and a half, may
not be able to turn away groups of any kind, even on holiday weekends, as
perhaps they may have in the past.

“I think people might be
a little concerned with the timing of their event since it’s going to be so
busy anyway down here,” said Staib, “but it’s really a small event if you
compare it to Cruisin’ last week and the Air Show next week.

Mayor Rick Meehan mirrored
those remarks this week and said that Ocean City welcomes all groups and
special events and wished the Imperial bikers well in their second annual

“We hope they have a
great time this weekend, but if you really look at how many people they expect
to come here, I’m not sure what all the concern is about,” said Meehan. “They
only are making up about 1 percent of what is going to be coming here this
weekend. Next week’s Ravens Roost parade will actually be bigger than this
fairly new biker event.”

Gibbs said that members
of the Imperial Bikers, which are representing chapters stretching from Boston
to Georgia, have even started to plan trips on their own after the bike weekend
is over.

“We hope to be involved
with Delmarva Bike Week this year, and continue to grow our event,” said Gibbs.
“Everyone has really been taken with Ocean City. It’s kind of like a hidden gem
and it’s a lot closer to the majority of our members than Myrtle Beach is.”

Gibbs says that a bigger
reason her group stopped going to Myrtle Beach’s huge event was economy based
and not based on the political decisions in South Carolina.

“Basically, we came up
here because of the economy and how close it was for many of our members, and
we didn’t feel like our dollar or we were being treated fairly,” Gibbs said.
“So why should we stay somewhere they obviously didn’t want us?”