Businesses adapt to new bike rally climate

Despite the rainy weather, bikers are still coming to the Grand Strand for the annual Spring Harley Rally. It's an understatement to say the rally is still trying to move past controversy and bad feelings.

For decades, bikers have come to the Myrtle Beach area at the end of May. At one point, the numbers ballooned to hundreds of thousands and vendors were set up all along the strand. Today, it's a different event.

Vendor Steve Chaszeyka has come down from Ohio for more than 20 years. He airbrushes designs on motorcycles.

"The event has suffered through so much politics, and it's cut it way in half. It used to be my best earning event, and now it's my worst earning event," Chaszeyka explains.

This year, there was also a date confusion. The Myrtle Beach Harley Davidson shop originally wanted to change the dates the rally would be observed, but in the end decided to go with the dates when Horry County issued vendor permits. Those dates are May 14 - 20.

The confusion directly affected Chaszeyka. "We were told it was going to be extended one way or the other, so we had rooms. We had to pay 225 bucks a night for a room, then they changed the dates on us. We didn't have the money back on our room, so we had to fight for that. Almost didn't get it back, a lot of people didn't get it back. So there again, who needs all this?" He's not sure if he's going to return next year.

Before Horry County placed a cap on vendor permits, the parking lot at the Myrtle Beach Harley Davidson shop held about 50 vendors, now they're down to just 17. To let people know the rally is still happening, the shop has stepped up out of state marketing.

"I targeted those areas with Yahoo impressions. I targeted those areas with any kind of internet activity. National advertising in industry publications and really put it out there," says Denise Medlin with MB Harley.

"I think it's been very similar to 2008. I was kind of eager to see whether it was gone be as busy as '08 was, and it looks like it's 'bout the same," adds biker Bobby Lee.

Bikers will likely still come to the Grand Strand no matter what the politics are surrounding the event, but the question is will they become repeat visitors?