The 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is just days away. With COVID-19 still prevalent in communities everywhere, this year’s event will look a bit different but it’s still expected to bring in a large crowd.
From sanitation stations to social distancing signs, crews are hard at work getting Sturgis ready for this year’s rally. However, Public Works Director, Rick Bush, says people need to take personal responsibility.
“I think that’s what it boils down to is personal choices. We are asking everybody that does come to adhere to CDC guidelines and to adhere to social distancing measures, best practices,” Bush said.
Bush asks those who may be at a higher risk from the virus or feel unsafe, to not come.
“Wait till next year, we’re hoping that this will all be over by then and we’ll have even a bigger event next year,” Bush said.
Bush and his Public Works Team are gearing up for a lot of traditional rally duties, such as: temporary traffic controls, blocking off streets, and collecting garbage each night. But Bush says with the extra health precautions, this year will look different.
“There isn’t really a game book out there to really identify and show you how to deal with a mass gathering like this and what precautions you should take and what you shouldn’t. So some of it we are shooting from the hip and doing what we think is best so we have to decide what measures we do put in place and how effective are they going to be,” Bush said.
Monument Health hospitals around the Black Hills are also preparing for an influx of bikers.
Marla Venjohn is the Coordinator of Rally Planning with Monument Health. She says normally, extra physicians and caregivers work or on-call during the yearly event.
“This year of course with COVID we’ve had to plan a little bit differently and that planning has included adding caregivers in several of our Monument Health locations to screen visitors and patients as they enter,” Venjohn said.
Venjohn says there will also be drive up COVID-19 testing at several locations. Monument Health has daily calls with the Department of Health, the local EMS, and the other hospital locations.
“And it really gives us that ability to talk about rally volumes, what we are seeing and then also discuss any barriers so that we have that open communication in case support is needed,” Venjohn said.
Another difference this year is that some major events, like the opening ceremonies and the B1 Bomber Flyover, are cancelled. Rally Director, Jerry Cole says organizers want to prevent large gatherings.
“So we are trying to do events that will be not so much the mass crowds but as individuals you can come in and participate in those events whether it’s a poker run or it’s a ride or other things that we are going to be doing for this year,” Cole said.
Cole says during the week of the rally there is constant communication with the mayor.
“If things do get out of hand, the mayor has the authority to shut things down or open things up or do whatever we need to do to make things safe,” Cole said.
Cole says that planning for the mass COVID-19 testing happening after the Sturgis Rally is still underway. He says that city staff, vendors, business employees and even citizens that sign up will be tested.