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Dissecting the rally

Organizers of the Sturgis motorcycle rally hope to emulate the state's successful tourism conference with a conference of their own next month.

The annual tourism conference brings together people from across the state to network with peers and educate themselves on trends in the travel and hospitality business.

Likewise, the Sturgis post-rally conference, scheduled for Oct. 11-12, will bring together those who cater to Sturgis rallygoers to learn more about what it takes to market to riders.

Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said details of the surveys taken at this year's Sturgis motorcycle rally will be revealed at a new post-rally conference in October.

The two-day event will be in Sturgis and open to all. He said the main point of the event is to explain how the 77th rally went and to help area businesses learn how to cater to the rallygoers.

"They want to be more welcoming to riders, but they're not sure how to do that," Ainslie said.

He said that officials with chambers of commerces in communities along the route to Sturgis wanted Sturgis officials to come and give them a crash-course on catering to rallygoers.

"The reality is, we can't go everywhere, so we came up with the idea of a conference where chambers from Wyoming or Nebraska can come learn about rallygoers," he said.

During the conference Sturgis city officials will share what the economic impact of the rally was for the 77th rally, demographics about the average attendee and also how people can engage with the riders.

"Ultimately this is a huge economic engine for Sturgis, but it is also a economic boon for the region," he said.

According to the officials with the South Dakota Department of Revenue, tax collections at the 2017 Sturgis motorcycle rally increased by 6 percent compared to last year.

To date, the South Dakota Department of Revenue has collected $1.26 million in taxes from temporary vendors at the 2017 rally. The state sales tax accounts for the majority of collections with $715,757. At this time last year, the Department of Revenue collected $1.19 million in taxes with $674,660 in state sales tax.

While tax revenue increased in 2017, the number of vendors in the Black Hills area decreased. The 2017 rally featured 1,050 vendors - down from last year’s tally of 1,153.

“The Sturgis motorcycle rally is an important part of South Dakota’s tourist season,” said Department of Revenue Secretary Andy Gerlach. “We value our partnerships with local governments, our fellow state agencies and the vendors at the rally. Each year, these partnerships ensure successful tax collection throughout the Black Hills.”

The Northern Black Hills, which includes Sturgis and all other communities in Meade and Lawrence counties, was home to 857 vendors and $969,840 in total tax collected. Of the tax collected in the northern hills, $551,277 was state sales tax.

The Southern Black Hills, which includes Rapid City, Custer, Hill City, and Keystone, had 193 temporary vendors with $290,854 in total tax collected--$164,480 of which was state sales tax.

Taxes collected at the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally included state sales, tourism, municipal sales and municipal gross receipts.

But just who is spending that money?

Ainslie revealed a few details of what might be shared at the October event. He said the Sturgis motorcycle rally, which has long been considered the mecca for those who ride motorcycles, may be changing.

"We know, based on demographics that we are getting right now that we are drawing in a lot of people who might be interested in motorcycles, but don't actually ride or own one," Sturgis city manager Daniel Ainslie said.

He says that trend may help to revitalize the motorcycle industry by bringing in those who are interested in motorcycling, but haven't per say pulled the trigger on purchasing a bike.

Data also shows the crowds coming to Sturgis are getting younger.

"They are younger than crowds we've had here for 15 to 20 years," he said.

Interestingly, although the crowds are getting younger, the demographics are showing rallygoers are wealthier.

Journal file 

The South Dakota Department of Revenue accepted sales tax license applications for the 2017 Sturgis motorcycle rally months ahead of the event and online.

Ponto organizes Parkinson's fundraiser

Owen Ponto says he can't imagine his life without his Grandma Jane or his Grandpa Gregg.

Grandpa Gregg happens to be Greg Owens of Sturgis who, like his Grandma Jane, suffers from Parkinson's disease.

So, in an effort to bolster the research surrouding the disease, Owen has organized a fundraiser scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 10, dubbed "Climb for a Cure."

The event will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at Founders Park in Rapid City. Owen suggests a donation of $20 that will get you dinner, games and a climb up M-Hill.

"My family loves to climb and hike, so I thought this would be a fun way to raise some money," Owen said recently.

Owen, 11, of Rapid City, said his initial goal was to raise $1,000 and they quickly surpassed that amount.

"Our neighbors and friends and even the STM (St. Thomas More) football team wanted to help out," he said.

Owen's mom is Tracy (Owens) Ponto who said her son came to her with the idea of a fundraiser to help two important people in his life.

"Life has been challenging for my dad," she said.

Gregg Owens, has battled Parkinson’s disease for more than 25 years.

"My grandpa Gregg is one of the most caring, compassionate, positive and loving men that you could ever meet. He has given hope to hundreds of people," Owen said.

And the 11-year-old is fearful of the day when his grandpa Gregg will move on.

"I could never imagine what life would be like without him," Owen said.

Owen's grandma Jane Ponto is 83 years old and was diagnosed with Parkinson's four years ago.

"She is very sweet and loves to take care of her family, but she isn't able to anymore because of the disease," he said.

Because of these two important people in his life, he decided to organize the fundraiser.

"I am having the fundraiser for Parkinson’s research so that boys and girls don't have to go through what I have to go through," he said.

In addition to climbing M-Hill, those who attend can play games such as corn hole, horseshoes, volleyball, and football, water activities, raffle baskets, plus Cheetah catering will be serving dinner.

Those who can't make it to the event Sunday can donate to Banner Sun Health Research Institute. For questions email Tracy Ponto at