Bike Events Still Pleased Despite Lower Attendance

OCEAN CITY – A tornado followed by a weekend of rain introduced OC BikeFest to town but the event, but event organizers as well as Delmarva Bike Week representatives reported the weather didn’t hold them down.

When The Dispatch last spoke with OC BikeFest’s organizer Cliff Sutherland, he said, “I’m hoping God’s good with the weather. We’ve got the rest handled.” This week Sutherland said although the weather didn’t cooperate the new event still pulled through.

“People had a really great time,” he said on Monday. “They loved the bands and they loved the stunt teams.”

Falling short of their goal attendance of 20,000, OC BikeFest still came in strong as a first-year event with about 14,000 attendees, which does not count those who attended on Sunday because the gates were open to all for free.

Sunday was originally planned to be open as a family day with a charge of $8, but Sutherland explained since the wind was heavy on Sunday some motorcycle stunt team acts just couldn’t perform. He did project that there were over 2,000 attendees on Sunday as the event came to a close.

Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) Executive Director Susan Jones said OC BikeFest was a great event and for the gates to be open on Sunday with no cover proved Sutherland puts on a first-class act.

“A really great move on his part because he knew the vendors suffered on Saturday,” Jones said. “That made the vendors take notice of his concern for them, and vendors are the whole important factor for any show … you have to keep the vendors happy.”

Sutherland said that Friday was by far the biggest day since the weather was the nicest overall.

“Guess Who played on Friday who I was blown away with,” Sutherland said. “It was just wonderful.”

Though it was raining most of the weekend, none of the scheduled bands canceled. On Saturday, Blue Oyster Cult played under the big tent, which only provided shelter for a certain amount of fans while the others watched standing in the rain outside of the tent. Sutherland estimated about 3,000 attended the concert.

BikeFest’s advantage became the large tents set up over vendor and entertainment space. Sutherland said vendors were pleased with the event despite the torrential downpours on Saturday.

“They were packed all day Saturday because we had a place to get out of the rain,” Sutherland said. “I think we had one vendor that said they wouldn’t be back but everybody else wants back really bad. They understand what the potential is.”

OCHMRA was one of those vendors under the big tent serving beer as a non-profit organization.

“I say without a doubt that the event would have been a lot busier if it had not rained the entire day on Saturday and then the tornado on Thursday,” Jones said.

From the feedback Sutherland has received, Ocean City visitors enjoyed OC BikeFest and look forward to attending in the following years. He reported there were no incidents and besides the bad weather everything ran smoothly. Sutherland plans to bring BikeFest back to Ocean City if the town will have it.

In the beginning, the majority of the City Council was apprehensive about having OC BikeFest come to town since it was proposed to run only a week before Ocean City’s main event, Sunfest, and on its same grounds in the Inlet. Jones said the set-up ended up working out beautifully.

“We had to be out by midnight [Sunday] but we were actually done and out by 8:05 … as a matter of fact Dick Malone [Deputy Director of Public Works] said we set a new bar,” Sutherland said.

If the city allows OC BikeFest to return to the Inlet in 2012, Sutherland said he plans to have a second location. BikeFest will take over Jolly Roger’s amusement park next year, all 34 acres, he announced.

“We didn’t do what we projected we were going to do but for a first year event and with the weather we did pretty darn good,” Sutherland said.

Jones said that it takes a few years for a new event to catch on but two or three years from now OC BikeFest will be a hit.

“We had some hotels that sold out and some that didn’t sell out,” she said of OCHMRA’s members. “The weather definitely played a factor.”

On the other hand, Jones said the indoor bars and restaurants did excellent over the weekend.

“The bars did really well on Saturday when it was raining because people were just driving to eat and then they stayed put,” she said.

Bike Week was a little different this year not only because of the weather but because Delmarva Bike Week moved one of its main locations from the Harley Davidson of Berlin to Seaford. There were still grounds at Seacrets in Ocean City this year, but the next closest main locations was in Salisbury at Perdue Stadium and Winterplace Park.

“Delmarva Bike Week went on as normal as it has for 11 years,” Bruce Bennett of Delmarva Bike Week said.

According to Bennett, the Perdue Stadium location made up for their loss in Berlin. All vendors who normally set up in Berlin relocated to Salisbury and there was a free shuttle running between Perdue Stadium and Winterplace Park, which “worked like a charm.”

“Being able to give our customers a great show went off without a hitch,” he said.

He added that Delmarva Bike Week’s scheduled entertainment and thrill shows went on as planned as well.

“Obviously, the number of people that came on site was held down a little bit by the rain on Saturday but Thursday was strong day and Friday was really strong,” he said. “Even in the rain Perdue Stadium and Winterplace Park both had great crowds.”

One of Delmarva Bike Week’s main events, Cruzin the Coast, is a motorcycle run that takes place throughout the entire weekend. Motorcyclists ride to visit different sites anywhere from Seaford, to Salisbury, Ocean City, Crisfield, Harrington, all the way to Tyaskin.

“The rain kind of held us back on that a little bit but still for the people it’s an extra badge of honor for them because they did it in the rain,” Bennett said.

Bennett had a glass half full mentality as he explained the rain added a unique factor to this year’s event.

“Everybody had a great vibe, kind of a jovial vibe where they ride in the rain,” he said. “It just adds more flavor, more excitement to the event and more stories to tell everybody.”