250,000 Bikers in Sturgis during a pandemic: What could go wrong?
today at 10:20 am
In the late 1990s, my family would take Sunday drives. We’d head north on the Edens Expressway, passing through the northern Chicago suburbs. We’d reach Highland Park and at the corner of routes 94 and 41, you’d see this restaurant where bikers would gather. There might be fifty to a hundred of them, eating breakfast or having coffee, before leaving on their own Sunday drive.
My young daughters were intrigued by this. So many questions:
“Dad, why are there here every Sunday?”
“Dad, why are there so many of them?”
“Dad, where are they going?”
I don’t know…I don’t know…and I don’t know!
I never understood the biker in hoards thing, and since that restaurant is long gone, and since I have no idea where they gather now for their Sunday rides, I guess I’ll never know the answers.
But, one thing I do know…the gathering in hoards of bikers continues to this day…and starting today, they’ll make their annual pilgrimage to Sturgis, South Dakota. This will be the eightieth edition of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. They’ve met every year since 1938. They did take three years off due to gas rationing, pre-World War 2, but returned in 1942 and haven’t missed a year since then.
The rally goes on for ten days, but you’ll see attendees and their motorcycles in the area for days before and after the event. Last year I was vacationing in the area about a week before the Sturgis rally. Everywhere we went, we were surrounded by bikers.
You couldn’t getaway. I know it sounds like I’m whining, but I’m really not. Almost every interaction was friendly and they did add an interesting twist to the trip. Except for the last night, when they were a little too loud, very late (I know…I’m old and get off my lawn), it was fun to see this.
The numbers attending the rally are enormous. Normal attendance is 500,000 with a high of 750,000. That’s a lot of motorcycles! But, this is 2020. Everything has changed. Most things that we took for granted are on hold. The words canceled or postponed are the new normal. But, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally goes on. If they are holding a rally during the main years of a world war, you know they aren’t going to let a little viral pandemic stop them.
Sturgis is small town America. The population is about 6,500. This town is as rural as rural gets. South Dakota has been doing well during the pandemic. A sudden influx of a half million people from all parts of the country was scary. A survey was taken to see what the residents wanted to do about this year’s motorcycle rally. More than sixty percent wanted it canceled. Maybe next year. Better safe than sorry.
But, then, as usual, money got involved.
Business owners from surrounding cities and states saw major losses coming if the event was canceled. For a lot of them, this is their major source of income each year. A restaurateur told one of the local newspapers:
“We lose money 355 days each year. These tens days are our only chance to make a living.”
It’s another example of one of the main stories of the pandemic. Health vs financial ruin. It’s been occurring everywhere in the United States…why not Sturgis?
This year’s motorcycle rally has been slimmed down. It’s limited to only 250,000….only! The business owners counting on bikers to save can’t be happy their potential customers have been cut in half. The people of Sturgis, South Dakota will still be overwhelmed by bikers. They won’t be happy, either.
Welcome to America in 2020.
Related Post: The search for all fifty states
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