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      Big crowds, but Bike Fest traffic takes time to build

      It's a busy holiday weekend on the Grand Strand. The Atlantic Beach Bike Fest is in full swing, Military Appreciation Days are here and thousands of families are enjoying a warm weekend on the beach.

      For Bike Fest, the crowd took awhile to build momentum. At noon Saturday in Atlantic Beach, ground zero for the festival, traffic going by on Highway 17 was moving smoothly and the Bike Fest crowd looked thin at best.

      "Evidently, they're not showing up like we thought they were," said Tony Funderburk, visiting from Williamsburg, NC. "But maybe it'll get better."

      Most vendors were struggling to find customers for their T-shirts and souvenirs, though they tried to make the best of it.

      "You see the people walking around, enjoying themselves, they're eating, buying, having a good time," said Luther Dixon of Guilford Co., NC.

      But by just an hour later, traffic on Highway 501 heading into Myrtle Beach was closer to what most would expect for a Memorial Day weekend: bumper to bumper and plenty of frayed nerves.

      And by early afternoon, motorcycles, cars and people were everywhere on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach. There were no doubts there about the size of the Bike Fest crowd.

      "I think it's bigger," said Cheniel Bailey of Greensboro, NC.

      One Bike Fest fan on Ocean Boulevard pointed out that the motorcycle event was just one of many activities drawing people to the Grand Strand over the holiday weekend.

      "It's all incorporated," said Jenera McNeil of Greensboro. "And plus it's good for the revenue of Myrtle Beach. They don't want to make it die down. Then they lose a lot of money. They'll make a lot of money on this weekend."

      SC Highway Patrol reported about 9 accidents involving motorcycles by Saturday afternoon, with one fatality in Myrtle Beach.