Sturgis Motorcycle Rally still being organized, planners continue to monitor pandemic

South Dakota News

STURGIS, S.D. (KELO) — One city in western South Dakota, with a population of around 700 people, brings in millions of visitors for one event: the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. But as the world fights COVID-19, the rally could look a little different this year.

While the rally isn’t until the middle of August, it takes months, if not a whole year, to plan all of those events that go into that one week. And with the COVID-19 health crisis, a lot of those plans could be changing.

“It could very well mean that we don’t allow parking on some streets, we have one-way sidewalks, we have open container so people aren’t getting grouped up in bars, that they can go out on the street go on the sidewalk and sit in an open space. Lots of different possibilities, a lot of discussion items right now,” Jerry Cole, Director of Sturgis Rally and Events, said.

Cole says that up until about a month and a half ago, planning officials were actually ahead of schedule.

“And then a lot of the people, as we are doing right here, were sheltering at home. So getting in touch with them, we have to phone call them, Zoom call them. It’s a little more laborious I guess to get in touch with everybody we need to get in touch with but we are still pretty much on track right now,” Cole said.

Cole says as organizers are carefully monitoring the health crisis, the 80th Sturgis Rally is still being organized.

“That is correct. We are a hundred percent going forward with planning right now. In fact, I had two different phone calls from my staff on different things as we were talking so,” Cole said.

Cole says open ceremonies, catering, and trash pick-up are currently in the planning process. Along with health protocols, like having hand sanitizer for people to use on Main Street.

“I will be setting up conference calls with about 15 or 20 different groups to hotel motel owners, campground owners, the cities, the mayors, the convention centers, the visitor bureaus all around western South Dakota and some on the eastern side as well,” Cole said.

Organizers are also staying in touch with the governor’s office, state tourism, and the health department before a decision is made whether to host the rally.

“One of the things that we know is that the rally is bigger than just the City of Sturgis, it affects the entire state of South Dakota, it affects the Black Hills tremendously and we wanted to make sure that we had inclusive groups of all those that are representative,” Cole said.

The Sturgis Rally annually brings in around 400,000 to 450,000 attendees. An anniversary rally brings in well over half a million.

“This year’s rally will be the 80th rally whenever it occurs. The city approximately becomes the twenty-third largest city in the United States. Right around Cincinnati size,” Mark Carsteensen, Mayor of Sturgis, said.

Mayor Carsteensen says that the city is following recommendations from the CDC nationally and regionally.

“I want to make the point that every single rally every single year, there is a great amount of time spent on public safety, with the current situation there is a whole new level added, that makes it difficult for sure,” Mayor Carsteensen said.

Carsteensen says the council will make the decision whether to host the rally mid-June.

“So we have to understand the magnitude of the situation and it’s a large one and as we move forward I do know we will strike the balance between public health and economics and if the rally should occur,” Mayor Carsteensen said.

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