CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina's tourism chief said Monday that Atlantic Beach would be eligible for both state advertising and some building money for an event to replace the town's annual biker festival which Gov. Nikki Haley wants shut down.
Duane Parrish also told The Associated Press that publicity about violence in the Myrtle Beach area during this year's Memorial Day weekend event likely hurt tourism.
Bikefest attracts tens of thousands of bikers to the small, predominantly black seaside community of about 350 year-round residents. This year, while there was no trouble in Atlantic Beach, there were eight shootings, with three deaths, in nearby communities along the 60 miles of beaches on the state's north coast known as the Grand Strand.
Haley attended a town council meeting last week urging members to end the festival and promised the state would help transform the town into a place people from across the nation will want to visit.
Parrish, director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, said help from his department could take the form of advertising grants to promote an event replacing Bikefest.
He added there is also a half-million dollars in building grants available under the Undiscovered South Carolina program, an effort to bring tourists to less-visited places in a state where tourism is an $18 billion industry.
"Those are brick and mortar grants and there may be an opportunity there to do something special down on those blocks by the beach," he said. "But the impetus for what is done on the beach and what that event is has to come from Atlantic beach, not from the state."
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