Groups of bikers were stretched up and down Coastal Highway and Route 50 over the weekend, often revving their engines in sit-and-go traffic.
Though that roar was annoying to some, BikeFest brought big business to the restaurants, hotels, shops, and nonprofit organizations, even competing – in terms of population – with some of the holiday weekends over the summer.
“We had a great weekend,” Susan Jones, the executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association said on Tuesday. “Just anecdotally, from looking in the parking lots, it certainly looked like it was on par with the Fourth of July.”
The festival ran from Sept. 15-19 and featured concerts, group rides, stunt team demonstrations, vendors and nearly 175,000 motorcycle enthusiasts spread across three different venues between Ocean City and Salisbury.
According to festival organizer Chase Micheal, the venues that were used for this year’s event were the Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, the Roland E. Powell Convention Center on 40th Street in Ocean City, and the inlet parking lot in downtown Ocean city.
“It was good. It was really good, and the weather was good,” Micheal said. “I can tell you a lot of the people liked the music, loved the new layout at the inlet, and I got great feedback on the stunt team we had at the Shorebird’s stadium. We had a Harley Davidson motorcycle stunt team called Unknown Industries.”
He said 175,000-plus tickets were sold for the festival over the weekend, up 10-15 percent from the typical 150,000 range.
“I don’t know exactly what we sold, but I can tell you that the traffic at all the venues seemed to be up significantly,” Micheal said.
Those numbers convert into dollars for the local businesses.
Jones said 95 percent of the hotel rooms in the resort were booked, which is common when it comes to BikeFest.
Additionally, the bikers eat at restaurants often and tip well.
“I will say, everybody really enjoys the biker business,” Jones said. “A lot of them eat out two to three meals a day because they don’t come with coolers and their cars. They can’t put [coolers] on their motorcycles like you can in a car trunk. They just don’t fit.”
Nonprofits were also able to bring in money from the event.
Jones said she was at the inlet parking lot every day from Wednesday through Saturday, selling beverages for her organization. Other organizations selling beer during the event included the Chamber of Commerce, Ocean City Development Corporation, Red Knights, Cricket Center, and Bishopville Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary.
“I went through 26 cases of Miller Lite, 22 cases of Coors, and 47 cases of Twisted Tea,” Jones said.
The unfortunate part about it, she jokingly said, was they had to share the profits with the organizer.
Micheal explained that by state law, festival organizers must use nonprofits to secure alcohol licenses for events. Every location where beer or alcohol is sold is worked by a separate nonprofit, and it ends up being a “huge” revenue generator for them.
“Each nonprofit comes in and manages the bar,” he said. “We provide the space and bartenders to each nonprofit, and they’re sort of the runners and barbacks.”
Along with raising money for the nonprofits, Go Green OC was able to collect 36,000 aluminum cans, totaling 1,100 pounds.
“I particularly enjoy BikeFest because the majority of Bikers are very respectable, kind, and down to earth people,” Jones said. “They are not out-of-control radical bikers that some might think we might be getting.”
As for next year, Micheal said he plans to bring the bike festival back to Ocean City.
He is thankful for the community allowing him to bring the 10th Ocean City BikeFest to the resort – it was also the 20th year for Delmarva Bike Fest – and hopeful, he said, the event can continue to grow.