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      Atlantic Beach Bikefest attracts more bikers in advance of event

      The Atlantic Beach Bikefest doesn't officially start until Friday, but droves of motorcyclists have already started to make their way to the Grand Strand before it cranks into overdrive.

      "We are seeing a very big increase from people coming earlier," said Sonya Bryant, who is here for the Bikefest.

      "We are trying to figure it out how is everybody getting the notion to come early, but we are loving it," she added.

      WPDE NewsChannel 15 talked with other Bikefest-goers who say they want to be able to enjoy the area and the scenery before the bigger crowds roll in.

      "A couple of days from now, it won't be the same. It's going to be gridlock. We are still going to get where we want to go, but it's going to take a lot longer," said Jimmie Huggins, who is also here for this year's Bikefest.

      Huggins says not only does it give him a break from the crowds, but it allows him to stock-up on some of the essentials for the big weekend ahead.

      "We can enjoy ourselves and take care of some business, as far as stocking up on food and drinks and meeting people. It's a lot easier to get up and down the strip," Huggins said.

      Many here for the event say they believe the larger crowds earlier on will mean a bigger crowd this year.

      According to North Myrtle Beach Spokesman Pat Dowling, they've seen other trends when it comes to how long people stay here for Bikefest.

      "The last couple of years we've seen more and more people hang around for a part of the day on Monday," Dowling said.

      Also, Dowling says a traffic chute will be set up early Friday morning.

      The traffic chute involves barricades on the east side of U.S. 17 from 37th Avenue South to 27th Avenue South heading northward, so motorcyclists and motorists in the right-hand lane will be directed straight into the festival area in Atlantic Beach.

      Bikefest officially begins at 3 p.m. Friday and ends at 3 p.m. Monday.