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Black Pearl Hopes New Name, New Games Brings New Vigor To Memorial Day Weekend Bikefest
5/24/2017 4:26:53 PM

By Barney Blakeney

As the Grand Strand sets poised for the arrival of thousands of motorbikers and participants in the annual Memorial Day Weekend Black Bikefest, its originators hope a new name and more entertainment will encourage this year’s revelers to spend more money in the Town of Atlantic Beach. The fest has been renamed The Black Pearl Cultural Heritage and Bike Festival, taking the name from the town’s adopted moniker, “The Black Pearl”.

Begun in 1980, at its peak Bikefest drew some 300,000 people to Atlantic Beach and surrounding communities. The predominantly Black biker rally injected over $50 million into the local economy over the three-day weekend. Bikefest became an annual economic shot in the arm to predominantly Black Atlantic Beach. The neighboring predominantly white community of Myrtle Beach, Atlantic Beach’s larger white counterpart, proportionately enjoyed the same benefits.

Myrtle Beach boasts the state’s highest grossing tourism economy and over the years Atlantic Beach drew proportionately less of the revenue from the event it created. Because Atlantic Beach offers so few amenities to visitors, the annual event usually contributes only about $60,000 to the town’s coffers. But business owner and former town councilman John Skeeters said the town’s business owners fare a little better earning “a couple hundred thousand” during the weekend’s festivities.

Activity in Atlantic Beach has been muted as the big weekend approaches Skeeters said adding, “I hope that’s not a sign of what we can expect. Last year was slow because of the rain,” he recalled. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for mostly sunny skies. Still, reservations are “way off” said the motel and restaurant owner.

Skeeters thinks some added attractions may help boost local revenues. This year the town will offer the Paradise Party Compound where a DJ will be spinning old-school tunes, hosting lip sync battles as well as wet T-shirt, bikini contests and live music with Bobby Rush, Tina Brown, TK Soul, ZAPP, Midnight Star and Big Mucci. Skeeters says the new attractions will bring back memories of a time when Atlantic Beach was the center of the Carolina beach community for Blacks.


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