DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Over 101,000 people are pouring into Daytona Beach this week for the sold-out Daytona 500 Sunday.
After last year’s race at limited capacity due to the pandemic, fans were ready to hit the infield Friday.
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“The infield party is definitely the spot to be. It’s a lot of fun,” said Colleen Shear, from Melbourne.
For many of the fans, it was their first year back. Each campsite holds its own nostalgia, celebrating the past and finally returning to annual traditions.
“Making sure we’re all here together, that’s the main thing,” said Carlton, from Orlando.
Shear’s husband, Jared, said they enjoy bringing the whole family.
“This is the third year that the kids have been here and hopefully we’ll bring them up with racing. And we’re just here to have a good time,” Jared Shear said.
Local businesses are also looking forward to the crowds.
“I heard the race is sold out so we’re very excited. We had a great day today, we’ve added more tables outside,” said Patty Fay, manager of the Starlite Diner.
The restaurant on A1A hopes to dish up breakfast or lunch for race fans, and with a prime location surrounded by hotels, Fay said they’re already seeing the boost.
“We have a percentage of maybe 20-30% more,” she said.
Bob Davis, the county’s lodging and hospitality association president, told News 6 hotels in the area are sold out this weekend.
“Rates are a little bit higher and so occupancy is good and all of the hoteliers seem to feel that we’re doing good for the times that we’re in,” Davis said.
The pandemic led to a staffing shortage across the hospitality industry, something many hotels and restaurants are still facing. They’re asking for patience this year as service might be slower than normal.
“We’ve been finally able to find decent help for our kitchen that will stay,” Fay said.
At the Starlite, she said they’re now fully staffed for this weekend and ready to go, bringing in new and familiar faces.
“We’re ready. If you see a line out the door, don’t get scared. We know how to turn and burn, so to speak,” she said.