STURGIS, S.D. (KELO) — With a statewide unemployment rate of 2%, it’s hard to fill open jobs anywhere in South Dakota – including the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Yet, every year hundreds of thousands of people make their way to the Black Hills for the annual rally and businesses find a way to handle the crowds.
“I am always amazed that all these people find enough help during the rally,” Sturgis business owner Ryan Meyer told KELOLAND News. “I’m just impressed by all these big venues and all the hotels, I don’t know how they do it because it’s freaking hard.”
Meyer owns the Grocery Mart, which is one of only two grocery stores located in Sturgis. He starts trying to hire additional staff as the summer picks up ahead of the rally.
“It’s difficult right now hiring anyone, period,” said Meyer, who added he’s up to a staff of about 30 people spanning an age range of 14 to 70 right now.
“We get a lot of work out of those 14-year-olds in the summer. I’m impressed by how mature some of these 14-year-olds are,” he said.
In total, Meyer said teenagers are making up about one-third of his total staff which will shrink to around 20 in the winter months. Meyer said all the employees embrace the challenge of working during the Sturgis Rally to meet higher demands for groceries.
“They know that they are important,” Meyer said. “My employees’ morale, I think, goes up during the rally.”
Deb Holland, the communications director of the city of Sturgis, said businesses tend to hire plenty of people in advance of the rally but those people don’t always show up. Holland shared an example of her sister, who works as a teacher in Watertown but is working for a business on Main Street in Sturgis during the 10-day rally.
“She said, the first day she got there, three people didn’t show up,” Holland said. “She thought, ‘What would this person have done if I didn’t say yes at the last minute.’ How would they have staffed it?”
Most of the extra employees are in Sturgis and the Black Hills for only a few weeks including extra officers for local law enforcement agencies. Temporary vendors also make up a large chunk of the Sturgis Rally.
Holland said the latest temporary vendor numbers for the 83rd rally were at 714 through Monday morning, which was down 43 from 757 at the same time in 2022.