OCEAN CITY — Cliff Sutherland, Mike Alexander, Rebekah James, and Kathy Micheal have been running motorcycle rallies for years but holding one in Ocean City is a goal that eluded them for some time.
But as Delmarva Bike Week began focusing more on the Salisbury area, the group understood they had an opportunity to bring their brand of rally into town. In order to make it a viable production, however, they understood the need to offer something that was missing from the well established regional event.
Their success in other places has hinged on providing a bike-centric event that also appeals to people who don’t happen to be motorcycle enthusiasts. The plan being to create a new kind of event that is equally pleasing to locals, tourists, families and bikers alike.
The first order of business was to convince the Ocean City Town Council not only that their plan would work but also that it would benefit the town’s merchants in a way that has been missing. Although they started their talks and lobbying four years ago, Sutherland — a bike enthusiast and Ocean City property owner — said that this year the council’s concerns were allayed and they were able to get a deal to do bike week in about four months.
The centerpiece of making it appealing to the town and the local businesses was to demonstrate that the show would be complementary rather than competitive to the town’s businesses. It was also important that they give people an excuse to spend the weekend in Ocean city, especially since many of the attendees are from less than three hours away. They accomplished this by establishing an early and definite closing time and a wristband program, as well as bringing major attractions and music acts, using the Sunfest footprint as a model.
Attendees may purchase a wristband for $15 that covers their admission to OC Bike Fest and all its events throughout the three-day weekend. This allows attendees to spend as much time as they like at the event without having to choose what not to do instead. Should people elect to spend some time perusing the 62 vendors tables between shows or decide to pop over to the Boardwalk while they wait for the next event to begin, they are welcome to.
Events include concert performances by classic rock bands Rare Earth, The Guess Who, and Blue Oyster Cult as well as three trick and acrobatic motorcycle riding team demonstrations.
“Heck, it would cost you $15 to go see any one of those stunt teams,” Sutherland said.
Sutherland intends this first year to be a springboard for re-centering Ocean City in the September motorcycle rally circle. Because of his ties to other rallies, Sutherland and his group have reach that goes beyond the Western Shore, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He said he’s already gotten a significant amount of attention from as far away as New Hampshire and hopes to grow the event.
If he can be successful, and there’s every indication that he will be, OC Bike Fest will actually improve the area’s profile among people who might not have traveled to the resort before. Sutherland said that if people come and enjoy themselves, he hopes they will return, not only for next year’s bike week, but as summer visitors and shoulder season day trippers.