SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Hulett, Wyoming’s population is a fraction of the attendance at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally but the town’s population swells during the 10 days of the rally.
The rally drew an estimated 555,000 bikers last year. Hulett’s population is about 300.
Call it the Sturgis effect.
“The big day is Wednesday when we shut off the street,” said Melissa Bears, the city’s clerk/treasurer. Thousands of bikers come that day and hundreds arrive throughout the 10 days of the rally.
The big day is called the Ham and Jam and it’s on Wednesday, Aug. 10, this year.
“This is not a town sponsored event,” Bears said. But the city helps with clean-up and other items to help make sure the event can happen.
Hulett is about 75 minutes from Sturgis in the Black Hills National Forest in Wyoming. It’s along a popular route to Devil’s Tower.
To the east of Hulett is Summerset, South Dakota.
“We’re the last stop (before Sturgis) going west on I-90,” said Summerset Mayor Melanie Torno said. “We’re a beautiful little bedroom community.”
Summerset attracts bikers, including those who want to a bed in the bedroom community.
“We have beautiful homes that people like to rent out (during the rally),” Torno said.
There is a motel in the city and visitors can camp at a nearby Camping World, she said.
Some bikers may spend the day at Sturgis and return for the night to Summerset, Torno said.
Bears said bikers stay in the motels in Hulett but others return to Sturgis in the late afternoon.
The peak is from about “10 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Bears said. If they’re not staying Hulett, “They head back to Sturgis, they don’t want to be on the road at night, with deer…,” she said.
Torno and the city manager in Hill City, South Dakota, said it’s difficult to determine the economic impact of motorcyclists who visit during the rally.
“The (sales) tax report goes to the state, and we don’t get a printout or report,” said Hill City city administrator Brett McMacken. “Obviously if you have additional people in town…it helps the tax base.”
All three cities have lodging fees which is a fee charged per room per night at motels. The fee is $2 per room per night in Hill City.
Torno said lodging fees are consistently good throughout the busy summer season so the rally may not cause an increase in fees. “The rates motels charge may fluctuate,” she said. But the city’s lodging fee is the same 365 days a year.
Hill City and Hulett also have vendors who set up in the cities during the rally. Both charge a vendor fee.
The vendor fee is $145 a day in Hulett.
“The (big) source of revenue for the city is just not there,” Bears said of revenue related to rally bikers. “And that’s eye-opening for people.”
People may see crowds of bikers and think “‘Oh man they are just raking it in,'” Bears said.
Any revenue is offset by expenses, she said. The city needs to pay staff to clean up and dispose of garbage as well as for extra police time, Bears said.
That expense amounted to about $18,300 last year, she said.
The sales tax and the lodging tax help the city, Bears said. The lodging tax can help advertise other events that will happen in Hulett, she said.
Visiting or staying in the three towns has become a tradition for some bikers.
“We have a lot of repeat people,” Bears said.
“We do have people who are interested in the rally in the community. They have motorcycles or Harleys. Some of them have their friends come each year,” Torno said.