MURRELLS INLET — A plume of smoke drifted through the air until it fully obscured Jay Perry as the Myrtle Beach biker performed a burnout on a friend’s motorcycle to the delight of onlookers at Suck Bang Blow.
“You want to please the crowd,” he said, “so when you please the crowd, you have to make smoke.”
While this year’s Myrtle Beach Bike Week Spring Rally was officially postponed until July because of the coronavirus pandemic, that didn’t stop longtime attendees like Perry from hitting the Murrells Inlet bar.
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Bar goers clutched drinks and puffed cigars Friday night as Harleys rumbled past shining neon lights in the night air.
“Bikers are family,” Perry said. “When you all meet up, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. … When you get here, everybody gets along.”
Not only were locals at SBB, but so were out-of-towners like Kelly Jinks from Sneads Ferry, North Carolina, who went there with her friends.
Jinks said she’s opted for riding on the back of a bike instead of driving one herself.
She swayed with a beer in her hand as she listened to live music performed on the stage below.
Pointing to the Hank Williams Jr. classic being covered by Dirty Grass Soul, she said going to Murrells Inlet every year is a “family tradition.”
Similarly, Chris Fowler and Holly Page came to SBB from Southern Pines, North Carolina, to take part in the weekend’s festivities.
“We can’t go out to eat; we can’t go to a bar,” Fowler said. “I go to work, I go home. We were more than happy to come here this weekend.”
For some, coming to SBB is a pause from constant work. That’s especially true for Fowler.
Though the pandemic has affected markets such as hotels that are crucial to his workplace, he’s continued laboring. The paper mill where he’s employed produces arguably the hottest item on the market right now: toilet paper.
“I bust mine so you can wipe yours,” he laughed.
Working in the heating and air conditioning field, relaxing at the bar is a way for Jinks to unwind.
Chelsea Bamford, who was busy serving Jello shots to bar attendees Friday, said the night was busier than she had anticipated.
“We didn’t really know what to expect,” she said. “Are people going to be like, ‘No, stay away from me,’ or are people just tired of being at home and want to get out?”
The latter seemed true Friday, and Bamford said hitting the bar is a break from hunkering down.
“That’s why it’s as busy as it is,” she said. “Everybody’s tired of being at home.”
She typically works at 10 bike rallies annually — with the Harley rally being her favorite — and regularly travels with other workers to rallies across the country.
“It’s been fun,” she said of working Friday night. “I love it.”
Like others, the current crisis has impacted her work. This year, many events were either canceled or postponed in response to the outbreak.
“It’s rough for everybody. We’re all out of work,” she said, “but I do like being at home all the time.”
Perry, the Myrtle Beach biker, has seen the COVID-19 crisis affect the Grand Strand’s economy, which he noted is heavily dependent on tourism.
As a motorcycle mechanic, business has been slow lately while the area has seen less traffic in recent weeks. A father himself, he feels for others who have financially struggled because of the coronavirus.
With restrictions lifting and the COVID-19 curve flattening though, he hopes for more normalcy.
“This is what’s needed for everybody across the board,” he said, referring to this weekend’s events. “We need to start getting money flowing again and people gathering.”
Being out at the bar is just one way to support local businesses.
“It’s amazing because it’s not even Bike Week, but they come down and it’s helping,” he said. “Anything helps.”
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