Rolling thunder

In 1940 Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association invited customers for a beach weekend, and considering the annual pilgrimage that has occurred every year since then, they must have had a really great time. The Harley set has actually kicked that up to two times a year, in May and September, with an estimated 250,000 bikers turning out for the larger May bike rally.

Black Bike Week over the Memorial Day weekend got started in Atlantic Beach, first hosted by the Knight Riders Club in 1980, and it came roaring down The Boulevard when attendance went into the tens of thousands and the four blocks of Atlantic Beach burst at their seams.

Ocean Boulevard is a natural parade ground, lined with balconies and terraces that serve as grand stands for spectators and cheering supporters. During full-capacity events like spring break every type of vehicle known to mankind joins the processional. Long-bed pickup trucks carry lawn chairs and sofas overfilled with laughing, waving, beer-swilling college students on break.

Just a few short hours after the bars close along The Boulevard, an Easter Sunday sunrise service begins at 5:30 a.m.on the boardwalk. City workers spend those few hours working diligently to pick up the beer bottles and the fast food wrappers before the sun's early rays illuminate the scene of last night's bacchanalia.

Picking up the pace

B&C built Myrtle Square Mall in 1974 and bulldozed it in 2006. The city built its convention center in 1970 at 21st and Oak Streets, with a 14,000-seat auditorium and an atrium that houses the South Carolina Hall of Fame.

The Gay Dolphin got its humble start in 1944 and over the years expanded into a sprawling three-story building. It now claims to be the nation's largest gift shop, with a whopping 60,000 items.

Carolina Sands created Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach in 1988, and B&C sat up and took notice. The concept planted a seed as the first shopping, dining and entertainment complex in the area, a redevelopment of an earlier center called Village of the Barefoot Traders. Suddenly it was possible to spend a long, enjoyable weekend at the beach without ever actually laying eyes on the ocean. Current attractions include T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station, House of Blues, Alabama Theatre, Alligator Adventure, Ghosts and Legends Theatre and the Myrtle Beach Ghost Walk.

By 1997 B&C had responded with Myrtle Waves, NASCAR Speed Park, NASCAR cafe, and countless shopping malls, hotels and golf courses. Broadway at the Beach is the crown jewel in its property portfolio, a $250 million complex built on 350 acres with theaters, restaurants, nightclubs, and 90 specialty shops. Current attractions include Boardwalk Arcade, Bodies Revealed Exhibit, Carmike's Broadway Cinema 16, Carousel Park (this is where that old Hershell-Spillman carousel wound up), Dragon's Lair Fantasy Park, IMAX 3D Theatre, Legends in Concert, MagiQuest, Myrtle Beach Pelicans Stadium, Myrtle Waves Water Park, NASCAR Speed Park, Old Tyme Portraits by Treadway, Palace Theater, Pavilion Nostalgia Park, QRock Radio, Ripley's Aquarium, Soar & Explore, The Pat Boone Family Theater and Wonder Works.

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