WILDWOOD — Vince Vannoni and Tommy Stafford are motorcycle people.
The friends from Egg Harbor Township rode Harley-Davidsons to Wildwood on Saturday to join thousands of riders for the annual Roar to the Shore rally.
“We always take the scenic route,” said Stafford, who owns Stafford Refrigeration in Egg Harbor Township.
The motorcycle rally is an important part of Wildwood’s fall schedule, promising to draw tens of thousands of people to town after most tourists’ summer sunburns have faded.
Participants said this year’s crowds seemed bigger than last year as riders took advantage of dry, sunny days to come to the shore. Motorcycles sat side by side in every available parking space along Pacific and Atlantic avenues. More were huddled together outside restaurants and in ground-floor hotel garages where many riders were tailgating.
When the sun goes down, these avenues become a large street party reminiscent of Mardi Gras, complete with beads tossed from hotel balconies.
City police stood outside some of the more popular bars and bigger intersections to keep traffic moving. The department said no serious problems were reported during the afternoon.
Peter Nimmerichter’s motorcycle hearse attracted lots of attention. Maurice Motorcycle Hearse LLC is based in Stowe, Pa., but offers services at funerals across New Jersey.
The dearly departed can have “one more ride” in the back of the motorcycle-drawn hearse, which had a self-contained sound system blasting “Magic Carpet Ride.”
Nimmerichter said his business is an extension of the Patriot Guard, riders who escort funeral processions for military veterans.
“They personalize the hearse with photographs, American flags and whatever music they want. Some people play ‘Free Bird,’” he said.
The rally let riders such as Tony Scilingo, of Edison, compare notes on custom bikes. He is building his own and spent the day taking pictures of details he liked.
He said the town laid out the red carpet for riders. He is staying at a friend’s condo and planned to spend part of the night in Cape May.
“Wildwood is always pretty good to us,” he said.
The rally continues today with live music, vendor booths, a Boardwalk parade at 12:30 p.m., and a free Motocross stunt show throughout the day outside the Wildwoods Convention Center.
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