OCEAN CITY – The familiar sound of motorcycles will be rolling into Ocean City next week to be part of the first-time experience, OC BikeFest.
Event organizer Cliff Sutherland first proposed the new motorcycle event in January and found some troubles in getting the town to accept the concept. After a month of deliberation, the Mayor and City Council did manage to vote the event through.
“Since getting over the hurdle of being approved it’s been pretty darn good,” Sutherland said last Friday. “I think in the end they will see the economic benefit.”
In the past, Ocean City benefited from Delmarva Bike Week, whose local grounds were the Harley Davidson dealership on Route 50 in Berlin. The dealership recently closed to consolidate operations with its sister dealership in Seaford. Consequently, Delmarva Bike Week’s closest main events will now take place in Salisbury simultaneously with OC BikeFest this year.
Sutherland said he has been vacationing in Ocean City for 40-plus years. A frequenter participant in Delmarva Bike Week, he became concerned over the event’s western migration.
“Delmarva [Bike Week] has moved just about everything to Salisbury,” Sutherland said. “I was concerned about what was going to happen to Ocean City.”
Sutherland is from Morgantown W.Va. and has been involved in his hometown’s tourism industry for years. He has served as the president of Morgantown’s Convention and Visitors Bureau and has been appointed by the governor to serve on the State of West Virginia Tourism Commission.
“I understand heads in beds,” Sutherland said.
Sutherland is one of the founding members and president of the Wild and Wonderful Mountainfest motorcycle rally. Mountainfest is a 501c3 nonprofit event and has donated over $500,000 to charity. This past July was the event’s seventh year and over 70,000 people attended.
“What we’ve done is we created a high-end event here and we are going to bring that to Ocean City,” Sutherland said.
OC BikeFest will occur on the same grounds and setup as Sunfest, including its two stages bringing in big headliners to perform. Rare Earth will be featured on Thursday night followed by Guess Who on Friday night and Blue Oyster Cult on Saturday night. Other musicians scheduled to perform are Big Mike Griffin, and cover bands Second Helping, Poison’d, Cherry People, The Cheaters and Red, White, and Crue.
Other entertainment includes several motorcycle stunt teams including, The Famous Ives Family Ball of Steel and Motorcycle Freestyle Show, Circus Una All-Female Aerial Motorcycle Thrill Show, and the Adrenaline Crew Stunt Team.
Adult admission is $15 and a child 12-18 is $8. Admission allows attendees to come and go as they please for all four days. Sutherland said he is expecting at least 20,000 attendees this year and there is enough entertainment for all to enjoy, biker or not.
“Our event will probably be 60 percent motorcyclist, 40 percent of others,” he said. “We do all types of music not just your traditional biker music. We like to attract everybody, not just bikers.”
Sutherland and his team believe the Inlet’s beach scene is the perfect setting for the new event.
“What else is better than to sip on your favorite drink, watch one of your favorite bands, and look out onto the ocean?” he said.
Sutherland has been overwhelmed with the Ocean City business community’s support. The event has already gained 72 sponsorships in its first year.
“That should tell you something … it’s unbelievable,” he said. “That’s not me calling everybody that’s people calling me.”
According to Sutherland, for the first time last year there were hotel vacancies during bike week and OC BikeFest is looking to fill that void. He said the average biker is 52 years old and makes about $94,000 a year. He added that their bikes don’t come with trunks and will spend most of their dollars in local restaurants, retail stores and hotels.
“We think that our event should fill in the rooms this year in conjunction with Delmarva Bike Week,” Sutherland said.
As OC BikeFest organizers plan into the future, they aim to have the event become national by targeting visitors outside of the region.
“What we want to do is get people from farther then the three-hour drive away,” Sutherland said. “We want to market those people so they can see what Ocean City is and bring their families back.”
As Bike Week approaches, Sutherland is confident OC BikeFest will remain professional and responsible. It was created to be a family-oriented atmosphere and is fenced in so that event officials can regulate who and what passes through the gates. Their website specifically states, “No weapons, No attitudes, No colors.”
“Our communication with the city and with the police especially will provide and promote tourism in a proper manner and do it professionally,” he said.
OC BikeFest is reiterating Ocean City’s “family fun” slogan in creating this bike week event.
“I have a real affection for Ocean City, I have a real affection for motorcycling, and I am just trying to put together something the visitors will want,” Sutherland said. “We want to create a value for your dollar just like how Ocean City has created a value for the dollar and that’s why a lot of people come, it’s affordable.”
OC BikeFest begins Thursday, Sept. 15 and runs through Sunday Sept. 18.
“I’m hoping God’s good with the weather, we’ve got the rest handled,” Sutherland said.