By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
A major motorcycle event is coming to Darlington County this summer, and dozens of county officials, law enforcement, and emergency preparedness personnel joined business owners at the Greater Hartsville Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 27 to discuss plans with event organizers.
From Aug. 5 though Aug. 9, The Darlington Dragway will host the South Carolina gathering for the 38th Annual National Bikers Roundup, a camping and cookout-style event that could bring between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors to our area.
Albert Butler, chairman of the Columbia South Carolina Roundup Committee, said the gates at the dragstrip will open up Wednesday at 6:00 am and the roundup would end Sunday evening. Admission for those wearing official motorcycle club gear (like a club’s leather vest) will be $20, and $30 for non-members. The admission wristband is valid all week.
Events are scheduled all through the week, including grudge match races Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with a cutoff each evening of 11 pm. On-site events include fashion shows, kid’s games, demo rides from Harley Davidson, and charity rides.
The roundup does a food drive each year, gathering an average of 13,000 pounds of donated non-perishables for local food banks. Although a representative from Harvest Hope of the Pee Dee was present at this meeting, organizers said they normally divide the donations among any food banks that request help.
Many vendors will be on hand, selling everything from motorcycle parts and clothing to food and beverages, though no alcohol will be sold on the dragstrip premises. Butler advised local retailers and restaurants to plan for an influx of diners around breakfast, and stock up on camping staples like ice, bottled water, charcoal and propane tanks, and bug repellant.
Butler also asked that any restaurant or hotel wishing to designate motorcycle parking please locate those spaces in a well-lit, visible area, since bikes and gear are often stolen from remote parking lots.
Some meeting attendeed voiced concerns about unruly behavior like the violence that marred a recent Myrtle Beach bike fest. Roundup organizers assured them there was little cause for worry, stating that theirs is a more like a “family reunion” event attended mainly by motorcycle club members.
“This is not the Myrtle Beach crowd,” said Ronnie Siders, co-owner of Darlington Dragway.
The National Bikers Roundup began in 1977, founded by African American motorcycle clubs. The national gathering takes place in a different city every year. The 2014 event in Tulsa, Oklahoma yielded about $5 million in economic impact for that area, and a similar impact of between $3 million and $5 million is expected for Darlington and Florence Counties.
Charles Stewart, director of Emergency Services for Darlington County, queried committee members about specifics, such as traffic management, campground layout, aid station location, and access for first responders in case of emergencies. He suggested another meeting at county EMS headquarters where organizers would have access to maps of the dragway and surrounding properties (some of which will be used for campsites), allowing a detailed response plan to be formed.
For more information, contact Jessica Cohen at (843) 332-6401, or visit the roundup website at www.nbrkcmo.com/portfolio/event/