The annual Sturgis motorcycle rally is happening with an estimated 250k attendees

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I’m writing this Sunday morning around 11 am, and I just spent the last ten minutes watching the live webcam from main street in Sturgis, South Dakota, where they hold the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally, sponsored by Harley Davidson. While I didn’t see shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, I did not see one mask and no one seemed to be social distancing at all. I also saw so many people riding without helmets, which are not required for over-18 riders in South Dakota. A journalist at the site where I found the webcam, rideapart.com, watched the live feed and described heavy crowds and no mask wearing at peak times. Photos and videos of the event show the same. The nine day event has about half the attendance of a typical Sturgis rally and was estimated to draw around 250,000 people. We’ve heard of church revivals, funerals and school reopenings resulting in outbreaks despite earnest measures being taken. What about a huge gathering where no one is wearing masks? Sturgis is about to be a superspreader event. I’m going to quote Justin Hughes at rideapart here, because I like his take as part of the motorcycling community:

While local businesses pushed for the rally to continue as normal, major manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle have significantly reduced their presence. Earlier this week we reported on Indian’s measures, with an update that only four employees, who volunteered for the task, are attending, rather their usual 50. Indian normally runs a huge operation on Lazelle Street, where I spent some time last year trying a few bikes and borrowing a Springfield Dark Horse for the week. Harley is going one step further and has sent no one to Sturgis, and issued the following statement:

“Harley-Davidson is the official motorcycle of the Sturgis 80th Motorcycle Rally. We will be focusing our on-the-ground support in ways that are consistent with our health and safety goals instead of large consumer activations. This support will amplify the hallmark experience of Sturgis, which is rooted in riding and the spectacular roads of the Black Hills.”

Rather, it is the attendees themselves who are making light of the situation. The webcam shows that virtually no one is wearing a mask, nor social distancing—not that social distancing is really possible in the center of town. It’s a hotbed of potential contagion. With 250,000 people expected to attend and even a 1-percent death rate, by the numbers that means 2,500 Sturgis attendees could die from COVID-19—perhaps more since most aren’t taking even basic safety precautions.

What concerns me most, however, is what happens after Sturgis. People gather from all over, mingle, then go home, potentially bringing the virus with them. The 2,500 who get sick as a result of direct contact at Sturgis is one thing. How many people they, as well as an unknown number of asymptomatic carriers, will affect back home is quite another.

“If we get it, we chose to be here,” quotes the New York Times headline. Indeed, as riders, we accept that anytime we get on a bike could be our last ride. The difference is that if I crash and die, I’ve only taken myself out. I accepted that risk and took it. Friends, family, and co-workers of people attending Sturgis did not sign up for this. Many of them don’t even ride motorcycles, yet could become sick or even die as a result of someone they know attending the rally.

[From RideApart]

I ride, and I’m not surprised to see that so many of the people who attended are the same ones who don’t wear helmets. Attending this event is selfish, it’s reckless and they’re not just potentially making themselves sick, they’re putting their family, coworkers and friends at risk too. I’m also interested in how the sponsors are responding. It sounds like Indian and Harley Davidson had a muted response because they don’t want to piss off any customers. That’s understandable but it’s still really disappointing.

I just looked through the photos on Getty from this year and the #Sturgis tag on Instagram. I feel really sick to my stomach.

Also, the Republican governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, is an ally of Trump’s who has entertained his fantasies of getting his face on Mount Rushmore. She’s a complete piece of trash.

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70 Responses to “The annual Sturgis motorcycle rally is happening with an estimated 250k attendees”

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  1. Sayrah says:

    Gross. And Trump wanting himself on Rushmore sounds like something Dr. Evil would do. How apt

  2. Sara says:

    This is vile!

  3. Naddie says:

    Patriots. Whenever this word comes up it’s always something bad.

    • josephine says:

      These people like to fantasize that they would fight to defend their country and the lives of their countrymen if asked to step up. But apparently that only means playing with guns. Because when they’re asked to don a mask and stay home to protect American lives, they’re suddenly uninterested in making any kind of sacrifice at all and can only think of themselves. We’re at war, but they only want to participate in the type of war that allows them to kill others, I guess. They’re joined the side of the virus over the side of their fellow Americans.

      They’re dispatriots.

    • Marlowe17 says:

      They’re crying for freedom? Oh they’ll be crying all right when they get covid-19 from their reckless behavior, enjoying their “freedom” while they struggle for every breath with their ruined lungs……lots of freedom all right.

    • H says:

      They are NOT patriots. On IG, I confront these idiot wannabees daily. They claim to love the US and the military, but when you ask them if they served, its always a big no, just like Bone Spurs. Then when they call me a liberal, I post about me being a Gulf War Vet, a girl and a disabled veteran, they shut up real quick. I hope they all get Covid, less 45 voters come November.

  4. Darla says:

    what a great place to get a husband! let me go get my plane ticket, hold on.

  5. Scal says:

    Davidson May have had a ‘muted’ response but they didn’t send any staff this year. I’m not sure if they trailered in any bikes. Still a business

    Because yes-90% of those folks don’t ride in from their home state like they used to. They are either rich enough to trailer/fly their bikes out. Or they rent them from the companies when they get there. It’s boomers living that last dream of being from cool rider and they are all posers.

    • Scal says:

      To add-all of the local native reservations have closed their roads and aren’t allowing bikers theough so at least that’s something

  6. Chica1971 says:

    Many of the Indian Reservations around that area had to create checkpoints which is a thorn in Kristi Noem side. “Give it 5-7” is my new phrase because that’s when the first cases appear. The NYT did a photo essay on this event this morning and folks said they don’t care. They do it every year. I wonder if the high Covid 19rates among Blacks and Latinos make folks think that they are unlikely to get it.

  7. ParavelUniverse says:

    It was a ZZ Top tribute band, which is definitely worth risking your life to see.

    • Astrid says:

      thanks for the clarification. I was getting ready to be pissed at ZZ Top for playing at this event

    • Celebitchy says:

      Oh wow I will fix that! Sorry for that error.
      ————–
      Edit I will take that out but I swear the original TMZ story just said it was ZZ Top and didn’t clarify that it was a tribute band.

  8. josephine says:

    These same idiots who are suddenly so interested in “freedom” are the EXACT same people who want to severly restrict the freedom of others. They are the same ones who vote to make sure that minorities are women are not given equal rights in the work place, the same that want to restrict rights to medical care and procedures, the same ones that want to dicate what people wear (really, what girls wear to school and how minorities wear their hair), the same ones that want only certain people to have the right to marry, etc., etc.

    It’s amazing how angry and hysterical a bunch of white men become when even the slighest restriction is placed upon them.

  9. bluemoonhorse says:

    The Native American populations in the state are the ones that will suffer. Kristi Noem’s long term plan is to wipe out those troublesome First Nations people. This will help her.

    • H says:

      They’ve closed the roads down to reservation properties so it will keep the bikers out. But Covid is ravaging so many First Nation’s reservations and 45 and his cronies do nothing to help.

  10. Sarah says:

    Well yes you can ‘live’ and ‘love’ your freedom (last IG post above) but I’m doing so you are putting yourself above the other you risk infecting and killing and the already overstretched healthcare workers who will try to heal them. How does that sit on your conscience? Freedom doesn’t come without responsibility. These people make me so angry.

  11. Jerusha says:

    Undoubtedly, most are trump supporters, so, of course, idiots.

    • Aimee says:

      That’s what I was thinking. No shade to our bike riding friends but a lot of these people ARE ride or die Trumpsters. Well, they might not be around come Election Day 2020!!!

  12. TeamMeg says:

    Great opportunity for some natural selection to kick in.

  13. shanaynay says:

    Unfortunately, the only way they might learn their lesson is if they get the virus. Sorry not sorry!

    • Alexandria says:

      I don’t think so. Even that pastor who died from it said he had no regrets. And for those who recovered or had minimal impact, they will think it’s not a big deal since they recovered.

      Interesting that even the Haj authorities limited one of the biggest human gatherings on Earth to 100K. Maybe these weird Americans are really the height of individual entitlement. I pity the US healthcare workers and sane Americans.

    • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

      If someone they know and love dies, then they went out free and as true Americans. They’ll be martyrs. And they’ll be celebrated and revered for walking freedom’s path. 😐

  14. SamC says:

    They’ll bring it home, forget the impact on the local community that probably doesn’t have the medical bandwidth to care for a potential outbreak. The people traveling at will to party, vacation, etc. infuriate me while I also realize they are helping keep our tourist based economy plugging along. I live in Rhode Island where numbers are going up and we are back on the “banned” list for several states. Why? Anecdotally it seems every other car is from NY, CT, MA, etc.

    • stormsmama says:

      I live in VT and its the same. Every other car is NY, NJ, MA, CT, NH, there are other states too…but this little mountain town (full time population about 5500) thrives on tourism…
      Me and my kids and husband are hunkered down. No socializing, no parties…
      Only essentials, always in a mask…

    • Meghan says:

      I work at a hotel and have been helping at the Front Desk and people are getting grumpier about the fact that our bar/restaurant are closed (because we can’t afford to open them) but they can easily walk to great places that are social distancing, or offer take out or delivery. They’re mad that we don’t serve a hot breakfast (again, can’t afford it) and instead just offer complimentary grab and go bags with granola bars, fruit, etc. Oh and that we don’t have valet.

      I mean, I am over Covid too. I want things back to how they were and I want my real hotel job back but it’s not going to happen right now so suck it up. You know what is going on in the country and in the world, we are having to adapt to that! (Though oddly they’re all pretty cool with wearing masks. Some “forget” theirs but we have some available and when they see me wearing mine they grab one. I’ve not had to ask anyone to put one on)

    • H says:

      I’m in CO and went to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park to hike alone. I do this every summer. Vehicle tags were from everywhere and town was packed. I stayed in my room, ordered take-out and my dog and I hiked the less traveled trails. Good thing? Colorado has a mask mandate and everyone is complying (well, except maybe the idiots in Colorado Springs). Tourism is alive and well here but most activities are outdoors, which helps.

  15. ME says:

    The rest of the world is shaking it’s head at America. What the f*ck are you doing? Selfish and stupid !

  16. reef says:

    I’ll be interested to see the after effects of this. Bikers aren’t known for their pristine health.

    • Melissa says:

      While I agree with all of the points about how monumentally stupid even having this rally is — and it is stupid and reckless and selfish.

      The ‘biker’ stereotypes are a bit over the top. Millions of people ride, we aren’t all unhealthy, overweight slugs, we aren’t wearing colors and we aren’t running drugs. The majority of us actually shower and take care of ourselves just as much as any other group.

      We ride the Black Hills every year with a small group of friends over labor day weekend, I have no interest in the cesspool of the Sturgis rally.

      • Joanna says:

        Oh, yeah, there’s plenty of normal, everyday people that ride bikes, for sure. Seriously not sarcasm. I’ve met many that are professionals in everyday life. But go to rallies for fun. My girlfriends and I would go to the bike rallies to find a cute biker to ride around with and buy us drinks whenever a bike rally came to town.

      • Betsy says:

        No one said they all rode straight out of dens of iniquity, but on balance they seem to be more likely to smoke more than your average American, and the act of riding a motorcycle with or without a helmet is less safe than riding in a car (which itself is not safe). I think reef’s point that bikers are less healthy on balance sure seems possible to me.

      • Melissa says:

        Um. No. Riding a motorcycle does not make you more likely to smoke, drink, sleep with strangers, pick up dudes in bars or any other more unhealthy behaviors. That’s like saying driving on the highway versus slower side streets makes you more likely to be unhealthy.

  17. Diane says:

    Infected bikers coming to a neighborhood near you. BEWARE!

  18. Dragonlady sakura says:

    Enjoy corona…God forgive me.

  19. SJR says:

    You can’t fix stupid.
    Are we supposed to feel sorry when these selfish people become ill?
    Not me. I feel sorry for everyone they come into contact with. Typhoid Mary had nothing on this group of absolute jerks.

  20. Leah says:

    It’s because of selfish people like this that the virus is allowed to flourish and it’s never going to get under control. A few days ago I saw three unmasked college aged kids waiting to cross at a light, horsing around and kicking a nearby bus bench. They didn’t give a damn and I felt so resentful. Is it because they think they are invincible? Unlike them I’m not, I’m in my late 40’s with a heart condition and my mother is a vulnerable elder. If we get it, it’s a one way trip to the grave.

  21. Coco says:

    I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that I can only try to protect myself and do the best to encourage my family and friends to follow safe practices. I’m in a place where mask compliance is pretty high, but if I see someone in the store not wearing one or wearing it improperly, I just swerve in a different direction. Maybe that’s cowardly, and I feel terrible for employees who have to deal with this all the time, but I don’t want to risk a confrontation where a stranger screams in my face. Part of me hates that I’m letting my compassion be eroded away by the constant infection and death and the government’s indifference to it, but I’m tired and I’m cynical and I’m scared. These bikers will surely infect innocent bystanders they come into contact with, but the health of the bikers themselves is something I can’t muster up any energy to care about. Maybe things will improve if (please, please, please) Biden enters office and we get coherent federal leadership.

  22. ChloeCat says:

    I just can’t with these people who won’t wear masks anymore. I was out grocery shopping the other day. As I was walking back to my car, I was nearly run over by a car. The woman sticks her head out the window & yells at me, “mask-wearing Democrat!” Can you believe this? Afterward I realized I should have said, “thanks for the compliment,” LOL!

    • Darla says:

      OMG I’m sorry, how awful.

      • ChloeCat says:

        Thanks, Darla! I guess I should expect it, though, I live in a suburb & county of Chicago that is hugely Republican. Thank god we have mandatory mask-wearing in Illinois, though, but that’s because of our Democratic governor.

  23. adastraperaspera says:

    AP reported that 60% of Sturgis residents wanted the rally postponed. I feel sorry for them. I visited that area two years ago (after the rally was over)–met many nice people and loved the natural beauty. What a terrible blow to their local attempts to control infection rates. Gov. Noem is angling for national office of some kind, even if she has to kill people to do it.

  24. nicegirl says:

    What’s up, fellow rider! I didn’t know that about you lady. I share your opinions on this event, I’m expecting super spread as well. This is a great example of 45’s ‘SAD!’

  25. EM says:

    “Patriot” has become a real trigger word for me.

  26. Teebee says:

    In late August 2009 I travelled across the US to return home to Alberta, Canada from a trip to the East coast. I was alone, but wanted to hit some interesting tourist spots on the way. I specifically added days to my trip so that I could visit Mt. Rushmore. And from there I was recommended Needles Highway, the Crazyhorse monument and lo and behold found out the Sturgis motorcycle rally was also taking place. I did it all. Saw it all. Stayed overnight, surrounded by hundreds of bikers, in Keystone. Swine flu was definitely an issue, but people were barely talking about it, and there was no where near the concern or information available as there is today with Coronavirus.

    I got home safe and sound… But not more than two weeks later, and I remember exactly what happened, by the afternoon on a day I was starting to feel achy, chilly, and sick. Within 24 hours I was in bed, writhing from pain. I started a fever. Normal is about 38C. I hit 40. And vomiting, and such pain. So much pain I didn’t get out of bed for three weeks, overdosed on Advil because it was the only thing that eased the pain, didn’t eat and constantly cried that I was dying. Of course everyone around me, even our healthcare workers (we called a healthline for advice) just said it was the flu. Typical flu and that it wasn’t unusual for it to last so long.

    I didn’t die. But the experience is burned into my brain. I am positive I contracted H1N1, and that I must have gotten it from my trip. I was in heavily occupied areas, shoulder to shoulder, day after day.

    It was the sickest I have ever felt, and I am lucky that my family left me alone, mostly in my room and no one else in my family got sick.

    However, if back then, we knew what we know now, there is NO WAY IN HELL I WOULD HAVE BEEN ON THAT TRIP, LET ALONE STOPPED IN ANY TOURIST LOCATION. Coronavirus is hella more contagious than swine flu. And if it can make you sicker than I felt with the flu, than many are in for a world of hurt. And death. And people who had no intention of putting themselves at risk are now going to be at risk. It is a fact.

    This is pure madness. You don’t behave like this during a global pandemic. You get inconvenienced, you get sad that you can’t do certain things. But you usually understand the sacrifice. But there is something about this situation that has transcended normal common sense and human patience. It is almost pathological, that the more people are told you deny themselves pleasure or normalcy, for the sake of others, the more resistant they are to doing so.

    I do not ever think in these terms. Not today, not yesterday, and certainly not in the future. I don’t get it, I don’t understand these people. And, with the most utter and total lack of optimism, I know they will not change.

  27. Prairiegirl says:

    If you’re interested in a used Harley-Davidson motorcycle, there will be lots of ‘em for sale in 6-8 weeks’ time…

  28. mara says:

    It is reprehensible that this event was even permitted to take place this year. If these numb-nuts want to die that is their business, but there is no excuse for their selfish behavior when they kill their grandma by bringing the virus home to her. Disgusting.

  29. Liz version 700 says:

    God the people in this town do not stand a chance. They will all be Covid positive it is insane. Just wow no

  30. Hildog says:

    My sister in law is doing her medical residency in Sioux Falls and she is dreading the influx of preventable cases.

  31. JustMe2 says:

    I belong to a few different global groups on Facebook and the amount of people who mention losing parents or siblings or other relatives to Covid is so sad…and terrifying when you see things like this happening. For Pete’s sake even sporting events are going without crowds and then THIS happens… 5 million cases is insane when other countries are pushing preventable measures that WORK

    The rest of the world is realizing what a mess the US is in especially when it comes to health care

  32. Georgie says:

    I live about 20 miles from sturgis – I am really scared for my community and for the large indigenous population here who have already been disproportionally affected by covid. They have been getting SO MUCH pushback (Like lawsuit threat b.s.) from our POS Gov as they try to protect their people by simply limiting travel through The reservation. The level of willful ignorance here is STAGGERING.

  33. Krista says:

    I was driving through the badlands on Sunday and the bikers were all over the roads in the are. I can confirm there were hardly any of them wearing helmets or masks. I got to the park super early to escape the crowds and by the middle of the afternoon, I was waiting in my car, reading for like 30-40 minutes, while waiting for the crowds at some of the overlooks to subside to where I could walk a distance away from people. It was crazy. And Wall was jam packed! All hotels booked – luckily I had a room with an outside entrance, so I didn’t have to worry about encountering any of the mask-less riders.

    I did chat with a nice rider at lunch and he was all about the mask and being safe by distancing himself (we were socially distanced eating).

  34. MandoSD says:

    I live and work in the area. Local news is reporting that traffic counts are only down 5-6% from last year. Last year’s estimated attendance was 450,000 which means we are on track for over 400,000. Personally, I am choosing to limit my exposure to only what is necessary professionally.

    Without getting into what’s right or wrong about the whole situation, I’d like to provide some context about the event and the area. Nearly all of the riders pass through and spend time in Sturgis, but most of their time at the event is spent riding through 2,000+ square miles of forest and hills. They also stay all over the Black Hills area, not just in Sturgis, and a large portion of them are staying in campgrounds and vacation homes, further spacing the attendees out. All of the entertainment and most of the vendors are “open air” and outside. While it’s not impossible to contract the virus outside, the risk is greatly reduced when compared to indoor exposure.

    Point being, there is nothing about this event that fits the CDC’s recommendations, but it may not be as bad as it seems. Even with the large influx of people added to our modest population numbers, the population density across this 2,000+ square mile area is much less than most medium sized cities. If you want to know the results of South Dakota’s “science experiment” keep your eyes on the number of positive cases that are announced by the SD Dept. of Health in the two weeks following the event. There will be free testing available to Sturgis area residents during that time period.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      ” If you want to know the results of South Dakota’s “science experiment” keep your eyes on the number of positive cases that are announced by the SD Dept. of Health in the two weeks following the event”

      I’m from a nearby state, and it is my understanding that the Sturgis event brings people in from across the country, not just SD. And while we wait for them to test positive during the next 2 weeks, they are potentially infecting others back in their home communities without knowing they themselves are infected. So South Dakota’s numbers alone won’t reflect if this was a success or a tragedy.

      I do think that that airflow is so important when it comes to spreading this virus. Having so many events outdoors is a wonderful thing, but I have also seen a lot of crowds in various places. I worry very much for those people who are in a community with someone that took these risks, but didn’t take the risks themselves.

    • MandoSD says:

      Edit: I should also mention, the Black Hills area of SD has been busy since early June, not just during the Sturgis Rally. There *is* a notable uptick in people over the Rally, but we have had a busier tourism year than was originally projected.