Activate Your Premium Membership Today >

Sturgis is biggest crowd since pandemic

USA America Sturgis Rushmore South Dakota rally crowd

Motorcycle riders are about to inherit a bad reputation around the world as hundreds of thousands crowd into the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this weekend.

As riders start to roll into the town, organisers predict attendance will be about 250,000, down from an annual average of almost half a million.

Yet it will still be the biggest crowd of people in the one place in the world since the pandemic was declared six months ago.

That will be a tremendous black mark against motorcyclists everywhere and already America and the world’s media is massing in the small town to record the spectacle.


The number of vendors is down from about 700-800 to 330 as some companies decide it is not worth risking the health of workers nor the associated bad image.

Harley-Davidson employees are forbidden to travel so they will not be there but will have a lot of signage at the event.

Meanwhile, Indian Motorcycle will be on hand offering demo rides.

The company vaguely claim they will do it “in a way that keeps them safe and makes sure we are keeping employees and the dealership employees safe when they are interacting”.

Crowd checks

USA America Sturgis Rushmore South Dakota rally crowd
Riders in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Town leaders say they will be handing out voluntary masks, advising social distancing and offering testing to the crowd but it is doubtful many of the freedom-loving riders will comply.

They say there is little likelihood of transmission in the outdoors event, although a lot of the activities do take place in close quarters and in clubs, hotels and inside venues.

Currently South Dakota is recording about 75 new cases a day and increasing.

In April, the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls became what was then the nation’s largest coronavirus hot spot when more than 600 staff contracted the virus.

So far, the state has recorded 9273 cases and 141 deaths with four in the past day.

Death projections for the state are 250 by December 1 as restrictions ease. That could be reduce to 180 if masks were made mandatory.

However, South Dakota is among several states that has not locked down nor made masks mandatory.

Those projections for deaths don’t take into account the Sturgis rally.

Nor do they show how the virus can be spread in other states and countries as rally goers head home, taking the infection with them.

As this becomes evident, the stigma that motorcyclists have spread the virus will taint riders everywhere.

Vote against rally

Of the 7000 Sturgis citizens, 63% voted not to hold the rally, but a gift wholesaler in nearby Rapid City threatened to sue the council.

Sturgis City Council member Terry Keszler says they should have postponed or cancelled the rally in March.

However, Doreen Allison Creed, Meade County commissioner who represents Sturgis, says the county lacked the authority to shut down the rally because much of it takes place on state-licensed campgrounds.

“We are either going to be a great success story or failure,” she says.

“I truly believe it could not have been stopped.”

The state’s Department of Tourism has estimated that the annual festival generates about $800 million in revenue.


Neighbouring Minnesota Department of Health commissioner Jan Malcolm called the decision to go ahead with the event “disappointing”.

Malcolm and other state public health leaders have warned that the rally could be a potential petri dish for spreading the virus here and across the nation.

Michael Osterholm, head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, says the rally could cause a major virus spread.

“Come mid-August to late August, early September, Sturgis will have one hell of an imprint on this country,” he says.

  1. AH Yes
    Sorry Typo, should be;
    AH Yes
    STURGIS 2020 !
    Sorry Typo, should be;
    STUPID 2020
    A lot of PANHEADS & KNUCKLEHEADS will be there !
    Most don’t wear helmets so I guess don’t wear masks
    Big shame the US in general do not appear to take this pandemic serious
    Follow the Restrictions, Be Safe, Keep Safe.
    Trev D

  2. Have to agree – I no longer view the US as an intelligient country. 1st it was the Trumpster now its their attitude to Covid, mind you if they keep up with the death toll there’ll be some mighty awesome touring routes in the US when it becomes a far less populated country.

  3. Not sure how what happens in Sturgis affects the reputation of bikers world wide, what is happening in Sturgis is just a reflection of the American psyche, a nation in denial, severely lacking competent leadership.
    Hopefully no one will be infected. A vain hope, considering many riders will come from infected areas, but hell we wouldn’t want to restrict anyone’s “freedom’
    The hell with consequences. Glad I no longer live there.

  4. I think the world will view this rally for what it is,there seems to be quite a few self entitled people coming out of the wood work.
    There could be a lot of second hand Harleys on the market in the next month or so.
    Jeff J

  5. I think the supposed “reputation” of motorbike riders is a myth. Each rider is an individual, (even the ones who dress exactly the same). One bloke can be a welcoming person & the bloke next to him can be unfriendly & aggressive. As for them all behaving like lemmings and jumping off the Covid19 cliff, well thats been happening in America for millions of years. At least it will help free up the nursing homes in the coming decades & boost their economy, which is the whole point of their existence. I only feel sorry for the innocent people they’ll spread the virus to who’ll die or live with lifelong debilitating health issues. #Merica

  6. Don’t believe the fact that the Sturgis Rally is going ahead will reflect badly on the global motorcycle community as a whole , America and Americans have always done their own thing and will continue to do so, it’s their country and if American bikers want to attend then that’s their decision and that’s fine with me (I won’t be there)

    As for consequences I don’t believe anybody (including the scientists ) knows for sure what the outcome of 250,000 bikers congregating in one location will have in terms of Covid related deaths, so it’s a mute point, best just sit back and watch what happens.

  7. My wife and I should be there today , but all our travel plans have been cancelled . It’s like watching Jaws , where no matter what , ” summer vacation must go ahead ” and the local council defy common sence , because of money . We all know how that ended up . Hopefully we can go next year , but it’s not looking good .

Comments are closed.