PORT DOVER, ONT. -- A day after the premier asked motorcyle enthusiasts to sit this Friday the 13th out, hundreds descended on the Norfolk County beach town of Port Dover.

It was a much smaller gathering than what local officials say they would have expected in normal times, but they were thankful for that.

Dan and Karen Bangay made the trek from Brantford - a family tradition for 20 years.

However, this time they came by car instead of motorcycle said Dan, “Just ‘cause of the COVID and everything. Have respect for other people. We wore our masks, just come down to get our T-shirt so we can say we actually did it.”

An estimated 500 bikers rolled into town Friday. Town officials say pre-COVID-19 there would be between 2,000 and 3,000.

Most bikers were respectful of the precarious situation with COVID-19 numbers on the rise, according to veteran biker Wild Thing.

“Ninety-eight per cent of them, a lot of them are new riders and they don’t understand, they just think they’re on a bike having fun. Most of them are older riders like myself. I’m 73.”

In a bid to curtail activity and slow the spread of the virus, the municipality opted not to give out vendor permits for this event.

While there was talk that some businesses would keep their doors closed on this day, very few did.

Mayor Kristal Chopp said the town made the right call in trying to keep things quiet and keep the region from being moved to tighter restrictions.

“…there’s a narrow margin there before our business is subjected to additional restrictions. You know is it worth one day for being shut down for the coming couple of months? And that was our biggest concern.”

At least one T-shirt shop on the main street had a lengthy lineup to get in, with the proprietor appearing to adhere to COVID-19 capacity rules.

At the Brant Inn and Motel, owner Juliann Kuchocki had mixed feelings about the slow pace of business.

Normally, she said they would be booked far in advance, but right on this day there were only a couple guests.

“There’s part of me that’s thankful that it’s smaller, and it’s safer, and that people are listening, because especially as we get into a second round here, and with the numbers getting higher.”

The Friday rally may just be a prelude to a massive rally set for August of next year, in which 200,000 people are expected.

That’s when this event marks its 40th anniversary.

Kinsmen Club volunteer Amie Ferris said the club scaled things back this year to make a big bang next year.

“Basically we partnered with Norfolk County in saying you know we think it’s best that everybody stay home this year and stay safe, because we want to see you here in August 2021.”