News & Opinion | August 5, 2020 1:15 pm

America’s Biggest Motorcycle Rally Is About to Start, Because of Course It Is

Apparently COVID isn’t enough to stop Sturgis

Two bikers at Sturgis in South Dakota in 2001, one in a coffin sidecar
Two bikers at Sturgis in South Dakota in 2001.

So far, South Dakota has done fairly well in limiting the spread of COVID-19, in large part due to having under 900,000 residents and one of the lowest population densities in the country. All they have to do now is adhere to CDC recommendations and not throw any massive ragers that bring in hundreds of thousands of questionably hygienic people from out of state.

What’s that? That’s exactly what they’re doing?

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, one of the largest biker gatherings in the world which annually draws around 500,000 people to the namesake town in South Dakota, is still set to run from August 7 to 16. As CNN noted, some riders have already begun to roll into the city, which has under 7,000 residents, despite the objections of a majority of locals.

Some 60% of Sturgis residents, when surveyed, told the city they’d rather the event not proceed as scheduled this year,” CNN reported. Unfortunately, the locals don’t have much say in the comings and goings of two-wheeled Sturgis pilgrims. As city manager Daniel Ainslie told the outlet, “As a city, there’s nothing we could do, we’re not able to put up roadblocks and say, ‘You can’t come in.’”

So come in, they will. But what sorts of precautions will be in place for the 80th event? A quick look at the front page of the rally website only has two mentions of the coronavirus: one about travel restrictions on tribal lands, and another about guidelines for serving liquor and malt beverages. There are, of course, other measures in place, but because of the state’s lax response to the coronavirus, CNN noted that many of the recommendations — like 50-percent capacity in bars and restaurants — are not “legally enforceable.”

What else is on the docket despite the pandemic? A fully-booked lineup of concerts scheduled for every day of the rally at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip campground. 

But who would agree to play a show at a potential super-spreader event? Smash Mouth, of course.

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