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Crowds Up, Accidents And Arrests Down At 81st Sturgis Rally

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

If you don’t blow a tire, belt or engine at the Dime Horseshoe Bar Burnouts in Sundance, you’re pretty much booed off the stage. 

That’s the criteria for a good burnout, according to Robert Walter, owner of the Dime Horseshoe Bar in Sundance, which again hosted the annual event on Aug. 11 in conjunction with the 81st annual Strugis Rally.

More often than not, he said, it’s the wheels that go.

“It’s almost always the tire that pops. There’s a long bang and the rubber goes flying,” he said, “and the crowd goes wild.”

The crowd picks the four winners for $2,500 in cash prizes, Walter said, estimating that a few thousand people turned out this year an event that bar has now hosted for the past 44 years. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser.

The event began more than four decades ago when a biker did a burnout going through the front door, leaving a cloud of smoke wafting into the bar. Former owner Alice Schloredt had chased the biker out with a broom. The guy came back later to apologize. Alice and her husband Jerry figured they’d turn into an annual event, since people seemed to like all that smoke. 

Walter, who bought the bar seven years ago, said it continues to be a popular event with Sturgis riders, with this year’s contest pulling in a bigger crowd than last year. 

The burnout in Sundance is one of several celebrations thrown by cities in northeastern Wyoming along the biker’s route to Sturgis in South Dakota.

The small community of Beulah also hosts a burnout while Hulett throws the two-day “Ham & Jam” hosted by the Rodeo Bar. 

This year’s “Ham & Jam” saw record numbers of attendees, according to Hulett Police Chief Bill Motley. 

“I would say we’ve seen the biggest crowds this year than we’ve had in the five years I’ve been here,” he said.

Where typically he was used to seeing anywhere from 100 to 200 bikes passing through to the rally each day, this year that number was more like 10,000 to 20,000, he said.

He added the one-week rally seems to be drawing motorcycle riders to the region for three to four weeks.

And where attendance was definitely down last year, this year Motley said bikes were parked off side streets extending to both edges of the town, similar to the crowds seen in past years.

Motley attributed the higher attendance to people enjoying their freedom after being cooped up for a year.

Motley, who heads up Sundance’s the one-man department, brought in additional support with a mounted policeman, which seems to have been a big hit with attendees who said it added to the western flavor of the small town of just around 400 with a distinctly Old West downtown motif. 

Despite the size of the crowd, there were very few citations, he added.

Overall, both accidents and citations were down this year, despite increased crowds at the rally itself. As of Thursday, the South Dakota Department of Transportation’s had counted 423,273 attendees, a 12.9% hike from this time last year.

Over in Crook County, however, Undersheriff Todd Leimser said from his standpoint the crowds of bikers were underwhelming. In fact, he said he thought numbers were down from even last year, continuing a decline he has observed over the past five years.

“I’ve been here for 20-plus years, and the traffic I’ve seen is way down and it continues to go down,” he said. “We’re not seeing nearly the increase we’ve typically seen in the past.”

Crook County law enforcement officers issued very few citations in association to the rally, Leimser said, with no accidents and a few arrests on minor charges, he said. 

There were four motorcycle fatalities in South Dakota linked to the rally compared to five last year, according to Sunday’s Rally Tally prepared by the state’s transportation department.

This year, there were 100 DUI arrests at Sturgis with 22 additional arrests made in the Rapid City area, compared to 145 last year. Felony drugs arrests were similarly down to 112 from 126 in 2020 with no vehicles seized for drug possession compared to seven last year, per rally figures on Sunday.

Accidents with injuries associated with the rally in South Dakota were up slightly to 60 this year compared to 56 in 2020. Of this year’s accidents, 26 occurred in Sturgis and an additional 34 occurred in the Rapid City area. 

The only thing that didn’t seem to change this year was the nature of the crowd, according to Sturgis attendee Douglas Gruen. 

The Campbell County resident has been attending the event since 1986 and said this year’s bands and the event itself were top notch.

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Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Allowed to Have Open Containers This Year

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Sturgis City Council has agreed to change city ordinances to allow attendees at the town’s famed motorcycle rally to drink beer or wine outside of bars or restaurants.

The council approved the change during its meeting this week. This year’s rally will be held from Aug. 6-15.

There is a caveat, though. An official Sturgis rally cup must be purchased and used if patrons want to consume beer or wine outside of bars or restaurants during the rally, to be held Aug. 6-15. No hard liquor will be allowed outside of bars or restaurants, per a South Dakota ordinance.

Open containers will be allowed from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day of the rally, unless problems occur. If crowds begin to act rowdy due to alcohol consumption, open containers will again be banned.

A city council report said council members decided to allow open containers this year to create a more welcoming environment for visitors, keep people from gathering in tight spaces to discourage the spread of coronavirus and to establish new significant revenue streams for local charities through the sale of the official Sturgis cups.

The open containers will also only be allowed in a certain portion of the city, stretching from Seventh Street to Middle Street.

Funds raised from the sale of the cups will go to the Sturgis Rally Charities Foundation.

Last year, the South Dakota Highway Patrol made a total of 145 arrests during the rally related to driving under the influence, which was down from 171 DUI arrests in 2019. Seven vehicles were also seized in connection with drug possession charges.

The SDHP made 241 misdemeanor and 126 felony drug arrests in 2020.

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Minnesota Man Dies From Coronavirus After Attending Sturgis

in News/Coronavirus/Sturgis

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Minnesota man who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this year has died from the coronavirus.

According to The Washington Post, this is the first fatality from the virus traced to the rally, which drew more than 400,000 people this year.

The man was in his 60s, had underlying conditions and had been hospitalized in an intensive care unit after returning from the rally, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

“You have the potential to amplify transmission in multiple places. That’s what’s concerning from a broader public health standpoint,” Kris Ehresmann, infectious-disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health, told WaPo.

Cowboy State Daily reported in late August that there have been at least 10 reported cases in Wyoming that can be directly tied to the rally.

Traffic at the 2020 rally declined by only 7.5% from 2019 numbers despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to South Dakota officials.

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Ten Wyoming Coronavirus Cases Traced To Sturgis Rally

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Ten cases of coronavirus in Wyoming have been traced to the Strugis Motorcycle rally, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

Department spokeswoman Kim Deti said the department has identified 10 people believed to have become infected while attending the annual event in South Dakota.

The motorcycle rally, which marked its 80th year, ran from Aug. 7 to 16 and attracted almost 366,000 people.

According to The Associated Press, at least 100 cases of coronavirus in Wyoming and seven other states have been traced to the event so far.

In Minnesota 35 coronavirus cases have been linked to the rally.

Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health, told the Associated Press, “We’re expecting that we’re going to see many more cases associated with Sturgis.”

Health officials had expressed concern prior to the event’s end that it could become a “super spreader,” where people from across the country could be exposed to and infected by the illness.

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Traffic Only Down 7.5% For 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

in News/Sturgis

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Traffic at the 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally declined by only 7.5% from 2019 numbers despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to South Dakota officials.

The South Dakota Department of Transportation released the final vehicle count for the event this week, and Sturgis saw 462,182 vehicles come into the small town over the 10-day period of the rally, down 7.5% from 2019’s total of 499,654.

The traffic count was lower for almost all 10 days of the rally compared to last year, except for Aug. 9, which was up 1.1% compared to the first Sunday of the rally in 2019. Most days of the rally saw anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 or more cars coming into Sturgis.

A full traffic report will be released next week.

The South Dakota Highway Patrol also released the public safety tally, which shows how many arrests occurred during the rally.

There were 145 total DUI arrests, down from 171 last year. Seven vehicles were seized for drug possession and the SDHP made 241 misdemeanor and 126 felony drug arrests .

In total, there were four fatal accidents, with five deaths, up from two (both accidents and fatalities) last year.

Accidents in general increased compared to 2019, with 50 non-injury and 56 injury collisions happening in 2020 against 41 and 51 in 2019, respectively.

Only two fewer citations were issued, 1,354, than last year. Warnings were down, 3,576, compared to 2019’s numbers, 4,094.

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Wyoming Legislators Host Lunch For Disabled Vets at Devils Tower

in News/Sturgis

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Crook County legislators Ogden Driskill and Tyler Lindholm on Friday hosted lunch for a group of 20-plus disabled veterans who were on their way to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

The bikers were riding from Utah to Sturgis and were affiliated with the Veterans Charity Ride (VCR) group — a nonprofit organization that provides programs specifically designed to assist wounded and amputee combat veterans.

“As a veteran myself, I’m a big supporter of fellow veterans,” Lindholm said. “It is always good to lend a helping hand to some fellow and brothers in arms.”

Lindholm, R-Sundance, said the group had lunch at the KOA Campground and then toured the Devils Tower monument.

“They were in great spirits. It was a great honor for me to spend time with them,” he said.

Driskill, R-Devils Tower, who owns the KOA Campground, said he and Lindholm volunteered to sponsor the lunch when he heard the veterans were going to be riding through.

“We love vets and combat-wounded vets are in a special category of their own,” Driskill said.  “Our country is here because of them.”

The senator said the lunchtime discussion was focused on their bikes, the travels they made so far, and the upcoming celebration at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

“It sure makes you feel good to do something for these people,” he said. “They were excited to be here in Wyoming and they looked forward get to being in Sturgis for a full week.”

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Devils Tower To Experience Dramatic Increase in Traffic Due to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

in Sturgis/Devils Tower

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Heading for Devils Tower in the next week? Get ready for delays.

The National Park Service sent out a reminder Wednesday that because of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, traffic in the area will increase dramatically.

“Devils Tower will experience a dramatic increase in visitation over the next week during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. ALL visitors should expect limited services and parking during this time,” the Park Service said.

Even with the coronavirus pandemic, officials are still expecting more than 250,000 people to attend the rally and, as always, the surge affects northeast Wyoming.

The Wyoming Department of Health didn’t have any specific concern over the increase of traffic in Wyoming. A spokesperson said there is risk with any travel and/or event.

“At this point we would have the same concerns as we would for any gathering,” spokesperson Kim Deti said. “The larger the gathering, the greater the risk. Individual should think of their personal risk as well as the risk of spreading disease to others.”

“We recommend the same precautions for this event as we would for any: stay home if you are ill unless you need medical attention, keep a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other people who aren’t in your household, and if physical distancing isn’t reasonable, then wear a cloth face covering consistently over your nose and mouth,” she said.

The Park Service said to be prepared for:

-Long lines and wait times to enter the park.

-No RV parking or turn around space in the visitor center parking area; RVs will be directed to park near the picnic area.

-There will be no visitor shuttle in 2020.

-Limited facilities- bring everything you need with you. Visitor center and campground remain closed.

-No facilities to purchase water or food in the park.

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