Sturgis announces plans for making Rally decision

The Sturgis City Council will decide June 15 on whether or not the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will go on as planned in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pioneer file photo

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STURGIS — The Sturgis City Council will decide June 15 on whether or not the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will go on as planned in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city posted the news to its website Thursday afternoon saying that before hosting any event, the city must be reasonably assured that it would not levy an undue burden on the health of the town’s residents or local health care services.

Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said that the Sturgis City Council has prepared a set of protocols and a timeline that will be used when making the decision to hold or cancel the upcoming Sturgis Motorcycle Rally set for Aug. 7-16.

Questions concerning if the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally would go on as planned this year have continued to flood in to Sturgis city officials.

During its bi-monthly city council meeting Monday, several people offered questions in the comments section of the Facebook Live feed online.

Here are a few:

“ Is sturgis rally still going on for August 17?” Frank Commiso

“Sturgis rally?” Robert Forst

“Rally update please,” Karen Culver, Boise, Idaho

“They should cancel the rally and not jeopardize the safety of 500,000 people. Shoot for 2021 80th anniversary instead.  I had plans on going including hotel booked a year in advance but, it’s not worth dying over,” Gilbert Salazar, Downey, Calif.

Ainslie said the matrix developed by the city takes into account the spread of the coronavirus in South Dakota as well as the states that normally have the highest number of rally attendees versus the number of ICU beds and ventilators available.

According to the city, the primary markets of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendees are Minnesota, Colorado, Nebraska, California, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Washington, Iowa, Kansas and Arizona. They represent 50.6 percent of all attendees at the Rally.

Ainslie said the city determined that it will make its decision based on empirical data.

“This will focus on whether the state is capable of hosting a larger number of visitors and if the areas where our visitors usually come from have a high probability of carrying the COVID-19 virus,” Ainslie said.

The city is weighing that against the financial impact of the Rally.

“Many of our businesses are heavily dependent upon Rally revenue. If the event is not held, we anticipate significant negative impacts up to and including foreclosures for our community’s restaurants, hotels, Main Street gift shops and hospitality industries,” he said.

Any closure will likely take years to be replaced by a new business, which also holds true in neighboring communities throughout the Black Hills, he said.

The 79th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally generated $655,090,000 of direct spending by visitors in the state of South Dakota, along with $65,509,000 in indirect spending, according to statistics provided by the city.  

In Sturgis alone, visitors during the Rally generated $615,116 in funding for local non-profit and charitable organizations. And, the city of Sturgis net profit from the 79th Rally was  $1,165,688.

On Monday, Sturgis City Council member Terry Keszler asked if the city would keep the public apprised of the situation week-by-week moving forward.

Ainslie said they would.

Here is the proposed timeline:

Week of May 11 – May 15

Contact the following groups to see if they would like to be included in the decision: Governor, State Tourism, State Health, Sen. Rounds,  Sen. Thune, Rep. Johnson, Black Hills Badlands, Monument Health, Hotel/Motel group, local owners, Southern Hills, Rapid City, Spearfish, significant campground venues – Pappy Hoel, Buffalo Chip, Glencoe, Lamphere Ranch, Steel Pony, Kickstands, Rush No More, Sturgis RV, and Days End. Businesses - Main Street businesses – Sturgis Indian,  Black Hills Harley-Davidson,  Sturgis Motorcycle Museum; Sponsors,  Mayors and Chambers from throughout the Hills

Week of May 18

Contact Hotel/Motel Group, Campground Group, Sturgis Monument Health

Week of May 25

Contact Black Hills businesses, chambers and cities

Week of June 1

Contact Sponsors

Contact State and Federal Government Groups

Week of June 8

Special Council Meeting - for discussion only

June 15

Regular Council meeting to vote if the Rally is canceled (7-1/2 weeks before the start of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally).

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(2) comments


While I have book accommodations for this event from Aug. 10th to 16th, 2020 coming from Canada not even sure if we will be able to cross border at this time. Not even sure if I will get a refund if cancelled. But with this said the safety of all is the important thing here. There is always 2021, Regards

The Great One

Good Grief, Just make a decision...................Yes? No? Just make a decision

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