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On sunny Saturday, Covid-impacted Biketoberfest crowd seems smaller than usual

Daytona Beach News-Journal logo Daytona Beach News-Journal 5 days ago Abigail Mercer, The Daytona Beach News-Journal
a person riding a motorcycle on a city street: The Biketoberfest crowd seemed much smaller this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Saturday alone reported 4,000 new cases, which has been the highest number in the month of October. © Nigel Cook/News-Journal The Biketoberfest crowd seemed much smaller this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Saturday alone reported 4,000 new cases, which has been the highest number in the month of October.

Thousands of motorcycles — most of them Harley-Davidsons, of course — rumbled down the roads and streets of Volusia and Flagler counties Saturday, marking the busiest day of this year's Biketoberfest.

But on a sunny day with a gentle breeze, when the temperatures remained in the low 80s, the crowd seemed much smaller this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Saturday alone reported 4,000 new cases — the highest number in the month of October.

a group of people standing around a motorcycle: The Biketoberfest crowd seemed much smaller this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Saturday alone reported 4,000 new cases, which has been the highest number in the month of October. © Nigel Cook/News-Journal The Biketoberfest crowd seemed much smaller this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Saturday alone reported 4,000 new cases, which has been the highest number in the month of October.

Still, Main Street in Daytona Beach was packed by late afternoon with bikers and gawkers.

But the City Commission, concerned about close-packed crowds during the pandemic, had declined this year to issue permits for outdoor vendors and music acts. Perhaps as a result, by late afternoon the normally packed large parking areas next to the Peabody Auditorium and behind the Ocean Center were less than half full.

a group of police officers riding on the back of a motorcycle: Main St. during Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. © Nigel Cook/News-Journal Main St. during Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.

"Not good," said a parking attendant collecting $10 a vehicle who spoke on the condition that a name not be used. "Thousands of dollars down. It's definitely down."

A couple blocks away, the parking area at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church on Halifax Avenue was also more than half empty.   

Bob Davis, president and CEO of the Lodging and Hospitality Association of Volusia County, said the smaller biker crowd was reflected in lower-than-normal occupancy of area hotel rooms.

"Basically, we all knew it wasn't going to be a big Biketoberfest," Davis said. "I don't hear anyone complaining, but it's nowhere near last year. But we're thankful for what we get."

a motorcycle parked on the side of a road: Thousands of motorcycles rumbled down the roads and streets of Volusia and Flagler counties on Saturday, marking the busiest day of this year's Biketoberfest. © Nigel Cook/News-Journal Thousands of motorcycles rumbled down the roads and streets of Volusia and Flagler counties on Saturday, marking the busiest day of this year's Biketoberfest.

Davis also said that although tourism is generally down in the county, "we're better than almost every other part of the state." 

Out on U.S. 1, the area around the Iron Horse and Boot Hill saloons seemed busier, perhaps because the city of Ormond Beach did not shut down live music or vendors.

Volusia County Sheriff's deputies periodically stopped traffic to allow hundreds of people to cross the street from one bar to another. Despite pandemic concerns hardly anyone was wearing masks or social distancing.

a person riding a motorcycle on a city street: The Biketoberfest crowd seemed much smaller this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Saturday alone reported 4,000 new cases, which has been the highest number in the month of October. © Nigel Cook/News-Journal The Biketoberfest crowd seemed much smaller this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Saturday alone reported 4,000 new cases, which has been the highest number in the month of October.

"Similar," a deputy said when asked to compare this year's crowd to the pre-Covid 19 crowd of 2019. "Pretty busy. People just want to get out."

The scene was similar at Destination Daytona on the corner of U.S. 1 and Interstate 95. There, thousands of people checked out motorcycles and accessories at the Rossmeyer Harley-Davidson dealership or got something to eat or drink.  

But in other places, the normal biker crowd was distinctly thinner.

A reporter driving the Scenic Loop, which is normally jammed with motorcyclists late in the afternoon on Biketoberfest Saturday, cruised from I-95 to Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach without slowing for any traffic.

And then, just after 6 p.m., a steady rain began to fall on the Volusia County coast, dampening an already tamped-down Biketoberfest.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: On sunny Saturday, Covid-impacted Biketoberfest crowd seems smaller than usual

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