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Ohio Bike Week promoter in high gear ahead of celebration

Melissa Topey • May 19, 2014 at 4:20 PM

He was talking on the phone when I arrived.

Phone time for Steve Ernst, this time of year, adds up to a lot of time.

The promoter for Ohio Bike Week for years, this is his busy season, with the 2014 celebration less than two weeks away. “I use 5,000 minutes on my cellphone for a couple months” Ernst said. Bike Week in Sandusky runs May 30 to June 8 this year. He also has an average 500 emails in his inbox demanding his attention during the lead up to Bike Week. I am On the Job with Ernst on Monday. It is managing chaos.    

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Ernst starts planning next year’s Bike Week as soon as the current is done. The event brings in about 160,000 visitors and gets national media attention. A 2010 study found Ohio Bike Week generated $61 million in sales in the area in 2008. It is a lot of pressure, but Ernst handles it all in stride with a signature low-key demeanor and shy smile. A few men are organizing the warehouse, checking off items on a list they have.

They were looking for signs from last year’s Bike Week.

They live and die by the list. Ernst and his few employees have to start preparing for stages, food and merchandise vendors, confirm sponsorships and beverage operations. Ernst has an organizational system. The folders, the 20 Post-it notes and 10 business cards sitting on his desk required immediate phone calls. Behind him was a tiered wire organizer that held about eight file folders. Those were permits Ohio Bike Week and vendors are required to have. Another organizer held contracts — entertainment, vendors and city contracts — and yet a third contained sponsorships. The event grows larger every year, he said. He anticipates there will be a total of about 200 vendors this year at all the venues of Ohio Bike Week, including Sandusky, Perkins Township and Monroeville. He has to find space for them all and make sure each has what they need — such as electricity and water.

In a sense, Ernst is responsible for a seating chart from hell. Jackson Street Pier, which has been the default parking location in years past, will be used this year for vendors. Motorcycles will still park there. The big live event on Friday will be Pop Evil, playing in the back lot behind the State Theatre.

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