By SCOTT D. JOHNSTON
For the Grays Harbor News Group
After Bikers at the Beach promoter Dennis Irby told city officials and others by email on Friday that he was cancelling the annual event at the Ocean Shores Convention Center, the Mayor, City Council members and others found themselves scrambling to find a way to keep a motorcycle event at the venue this summer.
Following a series of meetings, Mayor Crystal Dingler announced Tuesday on Facebook that “The city is excited to be partnering with the Quinault Beach Resort to create a coordinated event that will span multiple locations. Get ready to Go Hog Wild in Ocean Shores!” The event will take the weekend that Irby dropped, July 26-28, the same dates as the Hog Wild motorcycle activities at QBRC.
The City’s Marketing Manager, Diane Solem, wrote on Facebook that the event “is a very new, very moving target. … We are just now in the process of firming up vendors. It would be difficult for the event to not make money, so it won’t be costing the city anything or use any (Lodging Tax Advisory Committee) funds. … The Convention Center will host this just like they do the Winter FantaSea — and make money from booths.”
A social media firestorm that has produced more than 1,000 comments over several different Facebook pages began Monday after Irby posted a cancellation notice on the Bikers on the Beach Facebook page that said, “The Ocean Shores Convention Center operated, by the City of Ocean Shores, has made it very difficult and unfeasible for us to continue doing events in Ocean Shores.”
In a later post, he wrote, “Yes, our post is vague as far as the exact details of why this happened. I need to see how they (City, Convention Center and local media) twist things up to blame anyone and everyone, but themselves,” and, “Yes, we will work to return to Shores in 2020 … unless the truth gets twisted by City officials and local media.”
Asked Wednesday morning about Irby’s comment that his insurance carrier “wouldn’t touch” the city-produced event, Solem said she didn’t anticipate a problem, adding, “Obviously, there are a lot of details that we are still working out.
“Our goal is to involve as many businesses as possible.” She said there will be another meeting with area businesses on Monday, and an informal committee of several community members with event experience and expertise will meet Tuesday. “After those meetings, more details will be available,” she concluded.
Don Kajans, CEO of the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, said, “We were already working with the previous promoter … we don’t think (working with the City on the event) is much different than what we were doing.”
He added that he sees serious growth potential if entities across the county can work together. “We would like to see a day when the whole county’s involved and 20 to 30 thousand bikes come to the Harbor. There’s no reason we can’t grow this into a week-long event,” he concluded.
The full text of the city’s Facebook post Tuesday said, “We appreciate the community is concerned over the announcement that Bikers at the Beach is leaving. While some of you might not remember, Bikers at the Beach started out as Sun & Surf. The event is unique to Ocean Shores. It doesn’t leave the city when a promoter steps away. While the city appreciates Dennis’ leadership of the event over the last three years, he made a business decision that this event was not economically feasible for him to continue. The city is excited to be partnering with the Quinault Beach Resort to create a coordinated event that will span multiple locations. Get ready to Go Hog Wild in Ocean Shores! More details to follow. Thank you, Mayor Crystal Dingler and Mayor pro tem Jon Martin.”
In an interview, Dingler noted that the city has access to limited funds to support tourism-related events and activities, but Irby did not apply for them. Called LTAC funds, for the local Lodging Tax Advisory Committee that recommends how they be allocated, they are essentially hotel-motel lodging taxes that the state requires be used for tourism related activities and operations. The city uses most of those monies to support operation of the Convention Center, but also uses them to help support some events.