STURGIS — Despite concerns by Sturgis Police Chief Geody VanDewater, the city council voted to allow open container during a youth wrestling event at Harley-Davidson Rally Point in July.
VanDewater said that although he believes the wrestling dual is a great idea, he’s not sure it sends the right message to have open container at an event where youth are involved.
“When we mix alcohol with kids, what kind of perception are we putting out there?” he said. “I don’t think it’s proper. I have some concerns with it.”
This is the first year for what is being dubbed “Rumble at the Rally Point.” There will be a dual pitting Sturgis against Gillette, featuring 20 wrestling matches. Participants will range from youth to high school.
Events begin in the late afternoon with a barbeque and games on Harley-Davidson Way adjacent the Rally Point. The road would be closed to thru traffic most of the day for setup. The meal would be served beginning at 4:30 p.m., with the wrestling dual beginning about 6 p.m.
The match would take until about 8 p.m. Following the match, a DJ would be on stage playing music until 9 or 10 p.m.
In the initial request, the organizers of the event had asked for open container in an area adjacent the Rally Point from noon to 9 p.m.
Councilman Jason Anderson said he wondered if allowing open container would only add fuel to the fire of an already emotionally charged sporting event.
“I’m concerned about the parents more than anything. I don’t want to see the open container too early,” he said. “I think 12 is a little bit early for open container. When the food is starting, I think that is a perfect time, then people aren’t sitting around drinking on an empty stomach. Who knows what that would turn out to be.”
Sturgis Brown High School wrestling coach Mike Abell said he wasn’t sure of protocol for open container in the downtown area and asked if 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. would be more appropriate.
During other community events at Harley-Davidson Rally Point, local bars have been allowed to set up temporary outlets to serve beer and wine. At this event, anyone who wants a drink could buy it at the Knuckle Saloon or Oasis bar and bring it out into the designated area. Drinks with hard liquor are not allowed in the open container zone – only beer and wine.
Councilman Mike Bachand asked about the age range of the participants.
Abell said there would be six youth wrestlers, six middle school wrestlers, and six high school wrestlers, along with a special exhibition match at the end.
“This is going to look a lot like a school event,” Bachand said.
Abell said initially, the event was going to be held on a Saturday and would have included a mountain bike race, competition barbecue and sampling from local breweries.
He said the open container was never really the focus.
“I don’t want that to give us a black eye, if that’s a concern. We just want to do the dual. That’s our first priority,” he said. “If it’s going to create an issue, it’s not that big of a deal to me.”
Councilmember Terry Keszler made the motion to allow open container in the downtown zone from 4:30-9 p.m.
Council members voting for the open container and road closure included Terry Keszler, Dave Martinson, Beka Zerbst, Ron Waterland, Anderson, and Rhea Crane. Bachand and Mayor Mark Carstensen voted against it. Councilmember Steve Keszler was absent.
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