Preparing for the 81st Sturgis Rally

Eye on KELOLAND

STURGIS, S.D. (KELO) — Each year, hundreds of thousands of people visit the city of Sturgis for the annual rally.

It’s a stressful time for law enforcement.

“Every year the anxiety leading up to the rally gets high because when you have a town of 7 to 8,000 people and you bring in 5,000, 400, 500 you name it, you name it, you bring in all these people, public safety does get a little concerning,” Sturgis Chief of Police Geody Vandewater said.

Vandewater says the department plans months in advance for the rally by recruiting more officers.”

Chief Vandewater will continue hiring until the day the rally starts.

“As the years progress, we’ve had to reach farther out to get more officers to come. It takes a lot out of an officer to come for 10 days, taking them away from work and their families so we will recruit officers and then we start hiring them and bringing them on as well as civilian staff,” Chief Vandewater said.

For Police, planning goes beyond recruiting.

“We also look at our strategic planning of where we place officers and the rotation so it makes it look like there is more officers than there is, but also to provide public-safety so that we can be in the heavy areas to answer calls of services needed,” Chief Vandewater said.

Rick Busch, Director of Sturgis Public Works, says his department starts planning for the rally as soon as the previous rally ends.

“We try and be as prepared as possible,” Busch said.

While the department has had a few issues with supplies, Busch says it will be prepared.

“We just changed our operations a little but we adapt and overcome and we’ll be ready for the rally that’s without a doubt,” Busch said.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Works Department will be keeping some of the health precautions it used last year including hand sanitation stations and having staff disinfect trash cans.

“That stuff that we learned because of COVID, I think we will continue from here on out and make it a normal practice,” Busch said.

City Manager Daniel Ainslie says rally goers can expect a lot more events in 2021. He says this year compared to last year, there are far more events.

“We have opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies, parades, stunt shows, we have things going,” Busch said.

With expectations that the 81st rally will bring much higher numbers than usual, Ainslie says this is an exciting time for the city and he hopes all goes well.

“I think anyone in Sturgis or around Sturgis can tell you we’re not expecting a drop off at all from last year, in fact, it will probably be larger. We are seeing that on a daily basis the number of people in town are growing every single day. I’m sure it’s going to be an incredibly large rally which of course leads to logistical issues as well,” Ainslie said.

“Leading up to the rally it’s always a stressful time trying to get people hired but we always come through. We will do everything we can. Whether we have enough staff or if we are short-staffed, we will still have sufficient manpower to keep people safe,” Chief Vandewater said.

City leaders are confident all of this year’s planning will pay off… and keep people coming back for future rallies.

The Sturgis Rally runs from August 5th through the 14th.

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