MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — Early Friday morning the increase in motorcycles around downtown Muskegon was noticeable, and thousands more are expected to arrive for Rebel Road and Muskegon Bike Time.
Muskegon Bike Time started at noon Thursday, July 15 and finishes Sunday. Rebel Road runs Friday, July 16 to Sunday.
Both events will fill downtown with activities with Muskegon Bike Time centered around Hot Rod Harley Davidson. Rebel Road's core activities will be in Hackley Park.
The motorcycle rallies in previous years have attracted large crowds to the city of Muskegon and Muskegon County. Because of COVID-19 neither rally was held in 2020.
Muskegon has had a string of big events in downtown including the Back to the Bricks car cruise and the new We Discover Festival.
For a snapshot on how the tourism economy is going city and county leaders turn to revenues from paid parking in the city and the county's hotel accommodations tax. Both indicators show Muskegon is in the middle of a big rebound year when compared to 2020.
"We're seeing very significant traffic on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays," said Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson. During the We Discover Festival parking kiosks in the city reported 36,500 unique visitors and 41,000 total visitors. If July continues at the current pace the city could double the amount collected in July 2020.
"We'll raise this year probably $600,000 or $7000,000," said Peterson.
The city of Muskegon uses revenues from parking to cover maintenance expenses at Pere Marquette Park and make improvements to other non-beach parks in the city.
In Muskegon county all hotels, motels, resorts, and bed and breakfasts pay 5 percent of their room charge in accommodations tax to the county. For 2021 the tax is on track to reach pre-COVID numbers.
In May 2020 alone the hotel accommodations tax was up 139% when compared to May 2020.
With another summer weekend full of activities and two big motorcycle rallies hotels and motels in the area are full or very near full capacity.
"Festivals like this are a big deal to both of the hotels and the restaurants within the hotels," said Director of Hotels for Parkland Properties Lisa Grossenbacher. Parkland Properties owns and operates two downtown Muskegon hotels, the Delta by Marriott Downtown Muskegon and Shoreline Inn and Conference Center.
"Our occupancy is night and day to where it was last year," said Grossenbacher. "There's a need to get out, and the fact that Muskegon has all of these outdoor recreational activities that's a big draw for our hotels."
Organizers of Muskegon Bike Time and Rebel Road are hoping loyal fans of the events return to town after a year off. Early Thursday there were good signs those fans would return.
"Waiting two years for this," said Jim Ballard who just arrived in town from Indiana. "We like Rebel Road, that's where we hang out most of the time."
Ballard and a group of riders says they've been coming to Muskegon every summer with the exception of 2020 and like the changes they see happening in the city downtown.
"The bars, restaurants and pubs there's a lot of choices now," said Ballard. "It's safe, we have not had any issues."
Over the July 4th holiday weekend Dr. Rolf's Barbeque on Western Ave. had it's best days of sales since opening. "Everyone got put to the test," said Dr. Rolf's Barbeque Pitmaster Fred Kilbry. "Smoked and cooked lots of extra meet."
This weekend the duel motorcycle rallies will likely attract thousands of people to downtown and sales records at Dr. Rolf's Barbeque could fall. "I hope so, we're ready for it," said Kilbry.
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