Bikers, motorcycle enthusiasts, tourists and onlookers have descended on South Dakota’s Black Hills for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Law enforcement officials say the first few days of this year’s rally has been among the busiest they’ve seen.
Some 700,000 people are predicted to celebrate the 81st iteration of the event, and their enthusiasm for motorcycles at the 10-day event that kicked off on Friday in Sturgis, the western South Dakota city.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has a solid track record when it comes to large turnouts. Average rally attendance each year has totaled about 485,000 rallygoers for the past two decades. Despite the social limitations of the coronavirus pandemic, last year’s rally brought in roughly 460,000 attendees.
“There are more people here in the 31 years I’ve been doing this,” Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin told the Rapid City Journal on Saturday. Law enforcement in Sturgis and Meade County are reporting their calls for service during the first few days are up dramatically compared to previous years. Sturgis Police Chief Geody VanDewater said officers have issued 207 violations for open containers of alcohol since Friday.
Last year’s rally drew widespread criticism, as maskless attendees gathered, even while most in-person events across the country were canceled. This year, vaccines have made more gatherings possible, but Sturgis still stands out.
Again, even to the chagrin of Fauci and the CDC, health precautions are optional at Sturgis. Officials said the rally offers attendees access to coronavirus test, face masks and hand sanitizer stations, in addition to doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. And the city also allowed rallygoers to drink on public property, with the hope of preventing indoor crowding. But there are no testing or vaccine requirements to attend.
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has given the rally her blessing and will appear in a charity ride. The event is a boon for tourism, powering over $800 million in sales, according to the state Department of Tourism. Also, the state’s Department of Health said the rally can be conducted safely.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally runs through Aug. 15 and will also feature musical performances from artists such as Kid Rock, Stone Temple Pilots and ZZ Top.
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has given the rally her blessing and will appear in a charity ride. The event is a boon for tourism, powering over $800 million in sales, according to the state Department of Tourism.