Thousands gather in SD for annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Pablo Tucker
August 11, 2020

The Department of Transportation released a map showing which roads are closed to tourists including parts of US 212 and SD 20, 63 and 65 on the reservation.

The rally has always been a point of contention among the city's residents but this year there's an added concern: a powerful virus that's still running unabated across many USA communities. Officials estimate more than 250,000 may still show up this year despite the coronavirus pandemic. The spectacle raked in $1.3million in city and state tax revenue past year, according to the Argus Leader.

Daily virus cases have been trending upward in South Dakota, but the seven-day average is still only around 84, with fewer than two deaths per day.

The Ogalala Sioux recorded 163 coronavirus cases last week.

'It looked like South Dakota was plateauing mostly, ' Sudkamp said.

Some attendees at the rally have been deliberately defiant of the virus.

"Screw COVID", read the design on one T-shirt being hawked.

I duck into the Sturgis Tattoo Shop just off of Main Street, where Lenny Borg has come to give tattoos during the rally. The event will go through next weekend.

'I think we're all willing to take a chance, ' he said, but acknowledged the trip 'could be a major mistake'. He said there was no difference from previous years "other than a few people wearing masks".

GRAHAM: I just think it's really unsafe.

"In downtown Sturgis it's just madness", bartender Jessica Christian said.

The bar was packed and there was nearly no social distancing, and lots of medical folks are anxious this will become a super-spreading event.

"What's important for people to understand is in a very small community and rural western South Dakota, you can not have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people come without preparations, including garbage and sanitation and additional law enforcement and emergency medical personnel", he said. The #Sturgis motorcycle rally starts this weekend, and we're excited for visitors to see what our great state has to offer!'

Some residents said they felt otherwise and accused city officials of not putting them first.

But in June a council voted to move ahead nonetheless but included measures like hand-sanitizing stations.

A convoy consisting of thousands of bikers headed for a South Dakota rally will not be allowed to cross Cheyenne River Sioux checkpoints on their way to the event, according to a Native American spokesman.

When he gets on Zoom calls with counterparts from around the globe, "everyone can not believe what they're seeing in the U.S. and they can not believe the words coming out of the leadership", he said.

Anxious residents say officials should have canceled the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

The rally has always been a huge economic boon to Sturgis, and vendors were taking full advantage of it on Sunday. Many made a point of bragging about their defiance of the guidelines issued by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the USA government health watchdog.

'My grandma is absolutely terrified because she has diabetes and is in her 80s and has lupus, ' another resident told CNN. "If she gets it, it's a death sentence".

The Rally in years past has drawn up to half a million people. A city council survey in May indicated 60% wanted the rally canceled.

He noted that the city will be expanding a program to deliver supplies to the homes of those anxious about the virus.

Other reports by iNewsToday