By Paul Gable
Atlantic Beach Bikefest time has come again and Myrtle Beach is in its usual frenzy.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors will be on the Grand Strand this Memorial Day Weekend to attend the Bikefest and related activities.
However, rather than appreciating the tourists that come to spend their hard earned dollars, the city treats this weekend like an invasion by ISIS.
Downtown Myrtle Beach looks like a third world Banana Republic for most of Memorial Day weekend with police, many in commando style gear, on every corner.
But, most of the people in town for the weekend are tourists who come to have a good time.
That’s the lesson that is escaping our supposed government leaders. The events of 2014, which gained national headlines for Myrtle Beach, were caused by a small group who weren’t here to have a good time. They were troublemakers and they caused trouble.
I saw the same thing 45 years ago when I was stationed in Scotland and used to go to soccer matches (especially ones like Rangers v. Celtic or Scotland v. England).
Many headlines the next day were about the “soccer hooligans” and the mayhem they caused. But, the overwhelming percentage of the crowd was there to support the respective teams.
And they were surprised by the “Yank” in their midst and very friendly to him.
The real lesson from Atlantic Beach Bikefest is that most of the people who come here want to have a good time and spend money. That’s what a tourist town is all about and presumably why over $31 million taxpayer dollars are spent on the advertising campaigns of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Festivals should be encouraged equally and sought after by our local tourism officials whether they be for bikers, music lovers, car enthusiasts, wine tasters or whatever. And they shouldn’t be treated differently!
This is what our government and tourism officials should understand.
The Brittanee Drexel disappearance still hangs like a cloud over Myrtle Beach but we aren’t discouraging students from coming down on spring break nor militarizing the town when they do.
Kimberly Renee Poole and John Boyd Frazier remain in prison for murdering Poole’s husband, William Brent Poole, on the beach. But, we aren’t attempting to discourage couples from coming to Myrtle Beach nor militarizing the town when they do.
We still have murders and armed robberies in December when almost no tourists are here, but the town is not militarized for Christmas.
Bad things happen for all sorts of reasons. That’s part of life. And the bigger the group gathered for an event, the greater the chance that something will happen.
But, that’s no excuse to discourage visitors from coming no matter the event or reason.