STURGIS, S.D. (KELO) — Despite a pandemic, the traffic numbers at this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally were similar to last year, according to traffic counts from the South Dakota Department of Transportation.
The traffic count at nine entry points totaled 462,182. That’s about 37,000 fewer than last year’s 499,654, or a 7.5% decrease. The 2020 rally was from Aug. 7 through Aug. 16.
The city of Sturgis uses traffic counts as part of its formula to calculate attendance each year. Other pieces include the amount of garbage removed over 24 days, as well as a formula that divides the downtown into sections to determine crowd sizes.
This year was the 80th anniversary of the rally. A city of Sturgis report on the 2019 rally said 81% of those surveyed planned to return in 2020. Media reported that before the pandemic, officials had hoped that 2020 attendance would surpass 2019’s attendance.
The attendance in 2019 was 490,000, according to the city’s website for the rally.
The count of 462,182 is close to the 463,941 count in 2016 and the 469,103 counted in 2017. The attendance was 448,000 in 2016 and 480,000 in 2017. Some estimates listed the 2016 attendance as 463,000.
Sturgis city manager Daniel Ainslie said the city does not officially announce an estimated rally crowd but did say the city was expecting 300,000 to 350,000 attendees. Ainslie said COVID-19 was expected to keep some attendees away and travel restrictions would keep international visitors from attending.
A company called Tectonix worked with X-mode to gather data, including data from mobile devices, to create a digital map to track traffic to Sturgis. The video is below.
Ainslie said about 10% of rally attendees are international visitors.
But traffic counts and other information caused Ainslie to say early last week that it didn’t appear the attendance would be reduced dramatically because of COVID-19.