A Harley rally here could be a big boost to the local economy

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

The thought of a lot of noise—roaring engines—and traffic congestion may have filled some people’s minds when the Beacon announced last week Shallotte was being considered for an upcoming Harley rally.

At a Shallotte pre-agenda meeting last Tuesday night, Rick Noyes, owner of the new Coastal Carolina Harley Davidson store on U.S. 17 in Shallotte, asked the town if it would support his attempts to bring the Harley Davidson Spring Beach Rally to town the week of May 10-17.

It has since been announced the event will be in New Bern.

Noyes’ announcement might have left some residents shaking their heads saying they don’t want the hassle, but in this economy, it would be good to give a rally serious consideration.

The challenge was for Noyes to convince the Harley Dealers’ Association Shallotte is a good place to be. But such a recruitment is more than a one-man job.

We all know what our community has to offer, but if the town and local businesses ever want something like this, it would be wise to come up with a marketing plan promoting why Brunswick County would be a good location.

If the Harley group were to come here, there would be plenty of money to be spent throughout the county. Riders would be looking for places to stay, places to eat, places to buy gifts, places to gas up motorcycles and entertainment.

Would local business owners want to turn that away in this economy?

Town administrator Paul Sabiston was right to want to proceed with caution. Traffic control, safety and site plans are among the many things the town would have to go over before giving an OK.

I’ve seen firsthand how a large Harley rally can affect a community—both good and not so good. I’m from a small town in Kentucky that for several years hosted the annual Kentucky Harley Owners Group rally.

According to the Census Bureau, in 2007 Bardstown’s population was 11,150, and the total county population was about 42,000—a place significantly smaller than Brunswick County. When thousands of HOG enthusiasts, their friends and family roared in, it brought a new energy to the small town known for its quaint historic downtown and the bourbon industry.

And honestly, it didn’t come without headaches. Traffic backed up on major thoroughfares, restaurants were often so busy it was hard for locals to get in, and of course, there were a few run-ins with the law.

There were some wrecks and some fatalities over the years, but overall the event brought a lot of good people to the community and stimulated the economy in ways business owners dream about.

As a reporter who had the opportunity to cover HOG rally events, I can tell you without question, it was a lot of hard work but it was also the most fun I ever had. The people I met were kind, fun and outgoing. The first ones I met were with a Christian riding group, and they were more than willing to share the message of God while touting everything wonderful about riding a Harley.

If your idea of a Harley rider is a tattooed, bandana-wearing rough-neck, well, you might find some of them, but you’ll also find a lot of upstanding people, like business professionals, who like to pack away their ties on the weekends for the feel of the wind against their skin on a bike.

You’ll find men and women—doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers and more. You’ll find for the most part, they like to have fun, and can do so with a level head.

Don’t let the outdated, untrue stereotype of Harley riders (or the fear of a little noise) be an obstacle to trying to get the event here. It could be great for our community now and in years to come.