Some Bikefest attendees unsure if they will return to festival

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Major Cook kicked his feet up as he relaxed on his motorcycle beside Club Off the Hook Sunday night in Atlantic Beach.

“It’s less active,” said the Black Bike Week veteran who’s attended for more than a dozen years. “That’s a bad thing.”

He blamed a heavier police presence and additional restrictions for what he thought was a smaller crowd in the town than in years past.

The member of Harlem Big Shots drove his bike about 14 hours to the area for Atlantic Beach Bikefest. His motorcycle club has roughly 300 members and about a fifth of them rolled into the Grand Strand for the gathering.

“I’m not coming back,” he said, before adding, “I said the same thing last year.”

Elsewhere on Atlantic Street, Tyrone Walker sat on his own bike with his young son Trey, who’s developed a fondness for motorcycles.

“I like to see the bikes and racetrack,” exclaimed the 4-year-old to the confusion of his father.

On the beach, Tomeka Smith sat in a seat with her bare feet in the sand, getting a final glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean before returning home with her husband and two nieces on the holiday.

“It has really changed a lot,” she said of Bikefest. “When I was younger, I used to enjoy coming down here. Now it’s just like a little bitty vacation. … It’s not a lot of fun anymore. I really can’t do anything like I did when I was younger.”

The Fairmont, North Carolina, resident said the Bikefest has changed, particularly with the intense police presence. However, the 33-year-old admitted Bikefest, which she attended as a teen, may appeal to a younger crowd.

“I went to Daytona Beach (in Florida) for the first time for their bike rally about a month ago or so and it was nothing like this,” she said. “[It was] a lot of fun.”

While her family had fun during their vacation — which included heading to the North Strand in an RV and her nieces enjoying a swim in the ocean — she’s thought about heading elsewhere for the holiday in the future. Many of her friends go to Miami Beach during Memorial Day weekend.

“They have too many rules and regulations now,” she said of the Grand Strand. “They’ll lock you up down here.”

Iris Smith is also fed up.

“It’s gotten worse over the years,” she said of Bikefest, adding 2018 was the last year she stayed in the area.

Now, she drives back and forth from her home in Whiteville, North Carolina.

“I don’t even feel like giving them my money to stay any more,” she said.

She detests the barricades and questions why there isn’t such a heavy law enforcement presence for the Myrtle Beach Bike Week Spring Rally earlier in the month.

“When I used to come when I was younger, back then it was ride wherever you want,” she said. “All the businesses were open. Now they’re closing down all the businesses.”

A lot of her friends are motorcyclists, and she said several rental properties prohibit having bikes there.

“That’s the purpose of coming down for that weekend,” she said.

She prefers going to Daytona Beach.

“I’m glad I didn’t stay because I would have been really upset,” she said.

She’s still had an OK time during this year’s Bikefest and believes there was less people who attended compared to in 2018.

Despite her frustration, she like the annual event’s fellowship and watching the bikes and people.

She also doesn’t blame Atlantic Beach for her deflated spirit.

“It’s Myrtle Beach,” she said. “Atlantic Beach is welcoming, but they can’t help what the … other cities do.”

But not all Bikefest attendees are contemplating making this year’s their last.

Kayy Williams came from Lumberton, North Carolina, for the festivities.

The 22-year-old and her cousin Jasmine of Fayetteville enjoy walking down the street and seeing the various bikes and meeting others.

“It’s not as lit as it usually is because all of the police and stuff,” Kayy Williams said, “but you’ve just got to make the best of it.”

The North Carolina A&T State University graduate sported a black cap that said, “This is my drinking hat.”

“We’re coming back next year,” she said.

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Viraj Naik
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