After weeks of deliberation, the Sturgis City Council voted 8-1 Monday night in favor of holding the 2020 Sturgis Rally. The council had four propositions on the table – cancel the rally altogether, postpone and prepare, hold a modified 80th anniversary Sturgis Rally or hold the rally as usual. While several council members admitted it was one of the most difficult decisions of a lifetime, the verdict to hold a modified rally while encouraging personal responsibility won overwhelmingly.

“The staff’s recommendation is to proceed with Option 3 or a variant of that option. That allows the city to work proactively to prepare for the greatest amount of health safety precautions for our residents and our guests. The 80th will be greatly modified,” said Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslee.

The list of modifications to ensure public safety include the cancellation of popular events like the opening ceremonies, the annual B-1 flyover, closing the Main Street photo towers and cancelling the famous noon and 5 o’clock Main Street photos. Rides or events within city limits that generally gather large crowds will not be allowed and there will also be no plaza seating on Main Street. The city toyed with the idea of allowing open containers downtown to keep people from congregating in bars and restaurants, but the motion was shot down. The city also deliberated changes to parking on Main Street but decided to keep it the same. Option 3 also includes increasing the number of sanitizing stations throughout the city in addition to disinfecting the sidewalks nightly.

The decision to hold the 2020 Sturgis Rally did come with one major caveat, though. If the mayor receives written documentation from any of the following – the State Department of Health, the Governor’s Office, the CDC or local health agencies, the mayor will be empowered to cease the City of Sturgis rally preparations based on those guidelines.

“In recent months and throughout this information gathering stage, it has become widely apparent that a significant influx of visitors will be coming to Sturgis and the surrounding Black Hills in August regardless of the official action of the City of Sturgis. This in part is due to a very significant number of businesses outside the City limits that are continuing to prepare and market for the event no matter the action taken by the City of Sturgis. In addition, it is abundantly clear that in order to ensure the public health and safety of our residents and those visiting, the City must be prepared to handle an influx of a large number of people by means of traffic control, parking and proper sanitary means,” stated the Council Report. Ultimately the city knew people were coming regardless and reasoned it best be prepared.

Other stipulations outlined in Option 3 include the following:

The City taking on a role of stockpiling PPE that would then be available for businesses and employees within the community who have not been able to source PPE to protect their employees. The intent is for the City to work to ensure that PPE is available for use by gas stations, convenience stores, hotels and many other front-line employees who will be interacting with a large influx of visitors.

Encouraging greater personal responsibility for employees in sensitive industries. This would include supporting City residents employed by healthcare and education providers to potentially forgo the opportunity of taking additional Rally related jobs in 2020.

Ensuring the typical hiring process for the necessary increases in public safety (Police and Fire) employees. These options include authorizing the overtime necessary to fully staff our Ambulance Service during this event. In addition, it would authorize the overtime necessary for Public Works to complete additional cleaning services in key areas. This is vital if any sizeable increase in visitors occurs.

Typical Rally traffic control measures will be implemented along Lazelle Street (with exception to 11th Street) and Exit 32. These roadways are controlled by the State's DOT which is preparing for a substantial increase in traffic. These are important considerations to ensure that there are appropriate means to traverse our community with a significant influx of traffic. Additional parking on Main Street is necessary to prevent increased visitor parking and traffic in residential areas of the community. This also allows for law enforcement to focus on the areas where visitors have a higher likelihood of walking. Lastly, the typical parking patterns would be preserved, reducing the likelihood of towing and interactions between visitors and the police,

Increase sanitization of the porta-pots with signage stating that the facilities are cleaned throughout the day but are not sanitized after each use and to be used at your own risk. There will also be a change in the cleaning protocols for downtown sidewalks. Instead of blowing and sweeping the sidewalks nightly, a disinfectant would be applied each night. This would require the businesses and vendors to ensure that the front of their establishments are free of merchandise and other items.

It is important to note that disallowing the issuance of temporary vendor licenses in the City of Sturgis would not prohibit vendors from attending the event and selling merchandise. Instead, a decision to not issue temporary vendor permits would simply deny the City any authority to require health and safety protocols of these vendors. Option 3 includes the issuance of temporary vendor licenses with the applicable health and safety guidelines. These options allow vendor licenses to be revoked and the forced closures if guidelines are not adhered to.

During the meeting, Ainslee noted how South Dakota’s approach to the pandemic and its upcoming Fourth of July fireworks display at Mount Rushmore have helped the “state become a national example of freedom.” One thing’s for sure. There was plenty of interest in the outcome of the council’s decision as at one time there were over 4,200 viewers from all over the country watching the livestream of the meeting. Now that premise of freedom Ainslee spoke of has been passed to bikers who can decide for themselves whether or not they want to head to the Black Hills for the 80th anniversary Sturgis Rally.

J&P Cycles commends the Council for making what's understatedly a difficult decision. Given the green light, this means everything will be full throttle at J&P Cycles Sturgis retail store on Lazelle Street come rally time. We've also been working diligently to keep abreast of the perpetually evolving motorcycle rally and event landscape and have been updating our 2020 U.S. Motorcycle Events, Races, & Rallies Calendar weekly, so be sure to check it out to keep in the know.