Perfect storm causing Harley Rally to sputter

The heart of the Spring Harley Rally is upon us, but a perfect storm of problems is keeping bikers away.

Rally veteran Max Helms has missed only one rally in 22 years, and he blames politics for the decline in attendance.

"Myrtle Beach pretty much told bikers we don't want you anymore," said Helms, a Charlotte native. "The 'Take back May' started a few years ago, and they aggravated a lot of people. They decided to not come back. It's way down as you can tell."

In 2009, the City of Myrtle Beach passed an ordinance forcing bikers to wear helmets despite a state law that allowed bikers to ride without them.

That ordinance was later overturned by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

SBB Four Corners manager Bill Barber said the bad taste still lingers for riders, with most staying away from Myrtle Beach all together.

"The only thing I've think they've succeeded in is not making money," said Barber. "I think they've put a lot of businesses out of business. They've hurt a lot of people financially, and they went about it the wrong way as far as I'm concerned."

Despite the lower numbers, Barber said last night was one of the best he's ever seen at SBB.

"I don't seeing think they've changed anything. I don't see them anymore biker friendly. There are the ones missing the boat. There's money to be made and tourist to be brought in. But in Murrells Inlet, they're all welcome."

Along with the ordinance, this year's weather hasn't helped attendance either.

Since Sunday, rain storms have kept bikers locked down.

"Most rain I ever saw," said vendor Stephen Dority. He's traveled from New York for eight years to sell his merchandize at SBB.

"This used to be my number one show," said Dority. But this year's show may be his last one on the Grand Strand because the economy, the weather and the backlash from the helmet ordinance are pushing him out of business.

"Myrtle Beach isn't unique as far as less people coming," said Dority. "But in a bad economy, some of the actions that went on down here didn't help matters either. When your boat has a leak in it, you don't drill more holes in it. You try to keep it afloat, and I think timing was really off on that."