By Joshua Wood, tourism/business reporter
When bikers come through Wyoming on their way to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, they’re bringing more than freedom on two wheels. They’re also bringing an economic boost for the Cowboy State.
Just think how much money 400,000 motorcyclists can spend. In 2021, the average Wyoming tourist spent $157 per day in Wyoming.
According to the Wyoming Office of Tourism, approximately 400,000 bikers make their way through the state as they head to Sturgis. With an average attendance of half a million, the celebrations extend beyond South Dakota and spill back into Wyoming.
In Sundance, the Dime Horseshoe Bar holds an annual burnout event. That’s when when you spin the wheels of a motorcycle while keeping the frame of the bike stationary. The goal is to blow a tire, belt, or engine.
A similar event is held in Beulah, a tiny town with a population of 84 just off Interstate 90.
Hulett holds a two-day event called the Ham-N-Jam that has been going for nearly 35 years. A community pig roast held for the bikers who come to Sturgis, it can typically draw up to 20,000 people to the town of less than 400.
The economic benefit that follows in the tailwind of bikers can be felt throughout southeastern Wyoming.
“It’s a nice effect for us. It happens right after Cheyenne Frontier Days so it provides an added visitation in that first and second week of August,” said Tim Walter, vice president of Visit Cheyenne. “People who are coming and going from Sturgis will often make Cheyenne a stop on their trip because it makes for a quick five to six hour ride the next day.”
Following the “Daddy of ‘Em All”, the arrival of Sturgis-bound bikers provides a gradual decline into the shoulder season, said Walter.
In the week before Cheyenne Frontier Days, the community sees an average of 27,000 visitors per day. After Frontier Days, the number is closer to 35,000. Walter estimates the nearly 10,000 extra people are those heading up to South Dakota.
A similar effect is seen in nearby Platte County, said Shawna Reichert, executive director of the Platte County Chamber of Commerce and secretary/treasurer of the Platte County Lodging and Tourism Tax Board.
“This is a good profitable time as we start seeing summer slow down a little bit,” said Reichert. “It’s nice to have Sturgis at this time, right before school starts, and seeing the crowds come through.”
It may not be visible on the surface, but Walter and Reichert said there is a diverse demographic under bikers’ gear.
“The beauty of Sturgis is it’s got this reputation as being a bunch of big, bad bikers hanging out, drinking beer and being rowdy,” said Walter. “The demographics of Sturgis are across the board. You’ve got bikers that are what you think of as bikers and then you’ve got guys riding up there on BMW motorcycles who are CEOs of companies.”
Joining those CEOs, said Reichert, are lawyers, doctors and “good salt-of-the-earth people”.
“We’ve even seen international motorcyclists. They’re flying into Denver and they’re getting motorcycles and they’re going up to Sturgis,” said Reichert. “About five different countries were represented by groups coming through and I had that report from our Chugwater visitor specialist.”
Because Sturgis appeals to such a wide demographic, Walter said Visit Cheyenne markets itself as a must-stop location.
“That’s the type of crowd we try to attract here in Cheyenne,” said Walter. “People of all shapes and sizes. That’s the cool part about Sturgis for us is it brings that wide demographic to our community.”
With an economic dip brought on by the closure of Yellowstone earlier this summer, Reichert said people bound for Sturgis are a welcome sight.
“Where we are at with what happened in Yellowstone, I think Sturgis brings a lot to the southeast side of the state,” said Reichert. “This is a good bump for tourism on this side of the state.”