Sturgis Motorcycle Rally expected to draw 250K despite outbreak concern

Despite pandemic, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally expected to draw 250K

STURGIS, S.D. — The annual Sturgis rally will go on in South Dakota, a state that has skipped lockdowns, after local officials realized the rally would happen whether they wanted it to or not.

Despite a majority of the local community voting to postpone the event, businesses pressured the city council in Sturgis to proceed.

“This is a huge, foolish mistake to make to host the rally this year,” Sturgis resident Linda Chaplin told city counselors at a June meeting. “The government of Sturgis needs to care most for its citizens.”

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In a survey of residents conducted by the city, more than 60% said the rally should be postponed.

More than 250,000 people are expected to rumble through western South Dakota for the event that starts Aug. 7 and runs through Aug. 16. Typical attendance for the event is around 500,000. Rallygoers have spent about $800 million in past years, according to the state department of tourism.

Jerry Cole, who directs the rally for the city, said organizers are not sure how many people will show up, but that they’re expecting at least 250,000. Travel restrictions from Canada and other countries have cut out a sizable portion of potential visitors, he said.

Others think the rally could be the biggest yet.

“It’s the biggest single event that’s going on in the United States that didn’t get canceled,” Rod Woodruff, who operates the Buffalo Chip, said. “A lot of people think it’s going to be bigger than ever.”

The gathering could be the biggest anywhere so far during the pandemic, according to The Associated Press. This year, they will also conduct mass coronavirus testing to see if all those people brought the pandemic to Sturgis.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.