Black Bike Week: Five Things to Know about the annual Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH — Along with all the rumbling tailpipes on Main Street, rock bands at work on outdoor stages, mammoth swap meets and other Bike Week rituals, another less well-known but equally significant tradition will unfold again this year in the city’s historic Midtown neighborhood.

Black Bike Week, an informal family-oriented gathering that has been a staple for more than 50 years, is slated to welcome motorcycle riders from across the country to Daytona Beach’s Joe Harris Park from March 10-12 during its traditional timeframe over the Bike Week’s closing weekend.

Bikers jam Main Street on the final big day of Bike Week 2015 in Daytona Beach.

Here are five things to know about the event:

It’s steeped in history

Black Bike Week was born in 1971, after a Black biker said he was told to leave the Bike Week event on Main Street on the beachside, supposedly because his Harley Davidson was dripping oil.

History lesson:Daytona Beach’s Bike Week: A history of beer, bikes, cole slaw and ‘rowdyism’

Make your plans:Bike Week 2023: Top 10 things to do in and around Daytona Beach

He and other Black bikers formed their own event, an informal annual gathering that features music, food and vendors at Joe Harris Park, at the corner of Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard and Green Street.

Puddles line the road as bikers don rain gear to ride Main Street one final time before heading out as Daytona Bike Week concludes in 2019.

During the event, activities also expand to include businesses on Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard. Nowadays, both Black and white bikers attend events both at Joe Harris Park and on Main Street, the hub of activities during the 82nd Annual Bike Week, which runs from March 3-12.

Where do riders come from?

Black Bike Week attracts motorcycle enthusiasts from across the nation, said Manny McDuffie, president of the Orlando chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers, an international group of Black bikers named in honor of the famous African-American Army units created in 1866.

Although not involved in officially organizing Black Bike Week, the Buffalo Soldiers are a major presence at the event annually, said McDuffie, known by his rider name “DJ Man.”

Bikers are reflected in the glass of a biker riding west on Main Street in Daytona Beach as Bike Week hits its final days in 2013.

“We have more than 100 chapters nationally and worldwide, including Hawaii, Korea and Germany,” he said. “We’re just participants, but I expect to see a member from every one of the hundred or more chapters at the event. It’s kind of loosely put together and it’s mainly just by local people. It’s mostly word-of-mouth and people show up.”

What you’ll see

The scene at Black Bike Week revolves around food, music and vendors offering crafts and other items not typically on the shelves at other Bike Week souvenir stands, McDuffie said.

“The main portion of it is the different foods,” he said. “There are vendors from all over selling different types of foods and clothing. There’s creole to Caribbean to soul food to seafood to New Orleans’ dishes.”

At this year’s event, the Buffalo Soldiers will unveil a new signature line of brandy, he said.

What you won’t see

Black Bike Week strives to keep its activities family-friendly, said McDuffie, 64, who has been attending the event annually since 2008.

“There’s no adult-type stuff, no wet T-shirt contests,” he said. “That isn’t really it.”

Nor does Black Bike Week offer much in the way of motorcycle parts and accessories, he said.

“It’s about the bikers getting together,” he said, “being unified and having a good, safe time.”

What has changed

Although the origin of the event is rooted in a less-than-hospitable welcome offered to Black bikers at the event in 1971, those attitudes have changed for the better in the decades since, McDuffie said.

“I went to Titusville High School and, as a kid, I came over to Bike Week and, yes, it was it was very much like that,” he said of the presence of discrimination. “It’s 110% better now.”

Black and white bikers alike attend events on Main Street and at Joe Harris Park, he said.

“I think the way it is now is that it’s more commercialized,” he said. “When that happened, they realized that all money is green.”