DAYTONA BEACH — Jay Rasch lifted his sleeve and proudly showed off the tattoo on his arm that he has of his wife.
“I married her when she was 19,” said Rasch, of Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.
“We ride everywhere,” said wife Terri, 51.
“Yep. These are our golden years,” added Jay, 59, noting it was the couple’s 37th wedding anniversary, which they were spending at another anniversary celebration — the 75th year of Bike Week in Daytona Beach.
More specifically, the couple enjoyed the first day of Bike Week on Friday on Main Street, the epicenter of the 10-day rally from March 4-13 that is expected to draw about 500,000 visitors.
The biker mecca draws people from all over the nation. And perfect temps in the mid-60s and partly sunny skies had motorcycles packed engine-to-engine and footpeg-to-footpeg along the rumbling road Friday.
“The crowds are very promising and we are very optimistic about the success of the event this year,” said Janet Kersey, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, the event’s official sponsor.
Kersey was running errands throughout the county Friday and said she was pleased with what she saw.
“It was just nice to see a steady crowd of people all over the place, enjoying every single part of the county,” said Kersey, who added she was happy with the feedback she has received from the Main Street Merchants Association.
“I had a couple of merchants tell me that they’ve been busy for the past two weeks, so even leading up to the event’s been really well for them,” she said.
Main Street was busy by noon Friday and open spots for parking on the sidewalk were getting hard to come by. The riding gear and choice of dress was getting more daring even before the evening crowd rolled in.
Rasch and his bride checked out the sights and sounds as he egged Terri on to make some purchases at one of the Main Street vendors – One Sexy Biker Chick.
“I want her to buy — she won’t buy,” he said, laughing as his wife tried on a cut-out blouse.
But she agreed to buy it. As Jay checked out at the register, he told the cashier that he hoped to convince her to buy more. “We’ll be back tomorrow,” he said.
Kari Gray, store manager of the shop that sells a variety of women’s riding gear such as boots, leather corsets and slinky skirts and tops, said the store opened two weeks before Biketoberfest and is now open year-round. She said while the shop has been slowly picking up since then, this week has brought some serious foot traffic.
“It’s been busy. It’s been incredible,” said Gray.
Down a block from Gray’s shop, the odor of barbecue and cigars wafted over to Damon Springer, 53, who enjoyed a great view from a wooden-stool along the south side of the street. Springer, who hails from Jacksonville, was holding up a sign that read, “Friendly Bike Parking.”
“You get to see a lot of crazy sights and meet a lot of crazy people,” said Springer.
And that’s exactly the view Doyle Whitaker was enjoying at Main Street Station as he sipped a beer. The 45-year-old decided to come down with his MC — that’s short for motorcycle club — about four or five days ago.
The group is part of the Knott County Motorcycle Riders in Hazard, Kentucky, and a patch on Whitaker’s vest heralded his club title — sergeant-at-arms.
Though the band of men in leather were basically winging it until Sunday when they plan to head back to Kentucky, they had a pretty solid idea of what their weekend would hold.
“We’re gonna get down with a bunch of brothers and party,” said Whitaker.
And Whitaker is not alone. Much like a dinner bell brings out the hungry, Daytona’s yearly circus of leather brings forth the revelry.
“Party down,” said Whitaker. “That’s what we’re gonna do.”