Amid social media choruses of “You can’t cancel what you don’t own,” the City Council of Sturgis took an exhaustive look of what the city could or would do in a year when a global pandemic is spoiling the celebration of the 80th Sturgis Rally. It clearly wasn’t as simple as “Yes, let’s do a full rally,” or “No, let’s not have it.”
The folks in Sturgis realize that thousands of riders are coming to the Black Hills in August. Some residents are concerned about a spread of coronavirus, some businesses are worried about survival without the income they would earn during the rally. Campgrounds like the Buffalo Chip, Pappy Hoel (the official campground of the Harley Owners Group), and Glencoe are adamant in saying that the party is still on.
So what was the Council deciding? The City Council owns and guides what happens inside the city limits of Sturgis, which is a big part of the rally experience. The council’s process of gaining input from residents, sponsors, local businesses and riders received widespread praise.
My friend Rod Woodruff, owner of the Buffalo Chip Campground (who doesn’t always agree with the City), was quoted in the Black Hills Pioneer as saying “You couldn’t expect anyone to be more diligent than they have been in putting this together. There should be no possibility of criticism for the process and the decision that they have made.”
Another friend, Dean Kinney, president of The Home Slice Goup, a multi-faceted local entertainment business, posted on his Facebook page, “What I saw up there tonight was an agonized group of people deciding a really, really tough call.”
So what was the decision?
I’d call it a COVID-hybrid version of the typical Sturgis Rally. The City decision supports riders who want to visit the city and its businesses. There will be “Sturgis-Style” parking on Main Street, vendor permits issued and traffic control for vehicles on their way through town. To support the battle against coronavirus, the sidewalks will be sanitized each night, there will NOT be activities that encourage large groups to gather (like the opening ceremony, bands at the Harley-Davidson Rally Point or the B1 bomber fly over), the photo towers at each end of Main Street are history for this year, and there will be lots of hand sanitizer and hand sanitizer stations.
It’s still unclear which vendors will be set up in town for the rally. Indications are that some of the big players who are typically on Lazalle Street won’t be there this year. I’ll be surprised to see Indian, Jack Daniels and even rally sponsor Harley-Davidson in town this year. Corporate travel limitations and the risk of covid infection of employees are a significant risk for the large public companies that we associate with the rally. So expect a different look to the Hwy 34 route through town.
If you are one of the fun-seeking, freedom loving riders that will be at the rally this year, you’ll be able to make the trip down Main Street once again this year. City of Sturgis, thanks for giving us a welcome piece of “the OLD normal.”