GALVESTON — The sun was setting over The Strand on Sunday evening, but the bikers were not ready to leave.
Even as the Lone Star Biker Rally was winding down, some were still showing up on their motorcycles.
While official numbers were not available Sunday, event organizers said it seemed that more people made the trip for the annual rally.
Melissa Penland, one of the owners of the rally, said early last week she worried that the weather would keep bikers away.
But it turned out to be a cool and pleasant weekend and the rumble of motorcycles could be heard as early as Thursday.
“It definitely seemed much busier than it has been,” Penland said.
Last year about 450,000 people visited the island during the rally. Attendance could surpass that number this year, Penland said.
The ambience of the city’s historic downtown and Seawall Boulevard right along the beach are part of what attracts so many to the rally, Penland said.
Steven Chachere of Baytown said he was working in Oklahoma this past week but drove all day Saturday so he could make it to at least one day of the rally.
“I can’t miss this,” Chachere said.
Heather Ripkowski said she has been coming to the rally since 2007.
One motorcycle that seemed to be covered in pink rhinestones caught her eye as she and Chachere walked along The Strand, Ripkowski said.
“I love seeing the different types of bikes,” she said.
Gen Hernandez was getting plenty of attention, as well. It wasn’t his motorcycle but his helmet and gear, which made him look like the Predator character from the action movies.
Hernandez said he was in the get-up to encourage motorcycle riders to wear the proper gear.
“A lot of people wear helmets, but no body gear, and whenever they crash they tear up their body,” Hernandez said.
He said he hoped other riders would ask about his unique look and perhaps wear more protective gear when they are on their motorcycles.
Accidents, traffic congestion and simply managing the large crowds are always a concern during the Lone Star Rally weekend, but officials said it was a relatively safe weekend.
Galveston Police Sgt. Joshua Schirard said he noticed an increase in visitors to the island this year over previous rally weekends with bikers showing up even earlier than in years past.
“Overall it has been a very good crowd,” he said. Schirard said there were only 14 arrests total during the event — most were minor alcohol-related charges. By comparison, during Mardi Gras, the island’s other large festival, there could be twice as many arrests in a single night, he said.
There were a couple reports of fights but those are typically don’t involve the bikers, he said.
“These crowds are generally very respectful,” Schirard said. “They are down here to have a good time. They are not down here cause mayhem and debauchery.”