Wrapping the rally

Crowds thin as Sturgis rally shuts down

2012-08-12T06:30:00Z Crowds thin as Sturgis rally shuts downRuth Moon Journal staff Rapid City Journal
August 12, 2012 6:30 am  • 

Traffic and crowds had thinned out, but there were still plenty of rallygoers for Silo Parsons to watch Saturday afternoon from his perch on a homemade motorcycle parked on Sturgis' Main Street.

"I think it's great," he said. "The weather's great. The people are great. The food's great."

Parsons, 55, has been to five Sturgis rallies and said he most enjoys people-watching and looking at other motorcycles for ideas. The bike he drove to the rally this year is his own creation — a maroon vehicle with a large rear engine compartment and a laid-back seat. Parsons called it a "recliner on wheels."

Crowds were up and vendors were down at this year's rally. The number of vendor licenses dropped slightly, from 709 last year to 676 this year, according to a news release from rally organizers.

Slightly more than 416,000 vehicles entered Sturgis between last Friday and Wednesday, according to preliminary traffic counts from the state Department of Transportation. Last year, Sturgis saw about 385,700 vehicles during that time period. Traffic peaked last Saturday, Aug. 4, with 81,702 vehicles entering the town.

The larger crowds include some changing demographics, bikers agree.

"It's changed. It's more laid back," said Jerry Culver, 65, from Iroquois, who has been coming to the rally for nearly two decades. Culver has missed one year since 1994: In 2000, he spent 12 days in the hospital and nearly a year off his bike after he crashed his motorcycle near Sylvan Lake.

"There are more tourist types than we used to have," he said. "There's more of a yuppie crowd."

Parsons agreed and said the change is for the better.

"It seems like people used to look down on bikers as a bunch of nasty, dirty people, and we don't get that perception anymore," he said. "It's nice to see a family pushing a stroller with a bunch of Hells Angels walking behind them and everybody getting along."

The Sturgis rally is big, said Carlo Forte, 48, and his wife, Patrizia Forte, 46. The couple flew to San Diego from Milan, Italy, and have been motorcycling across the U.S.

Carlo Forte has been to the rally five times and said he always notices how huge it is. A similar but smaller rally in Austria is called "Little Sturgis," he said.

"I don't think any other rallies could compare to this," said Rick Basham, a 56-year-old who rode his bike from Fort Worth, Texas, to Sturgis. This is the first time Basham has been to the rally. Lynyrd Skynyrd's performance at the Buffalo Chip was one of his rally highlights.

He made a spur-of-the moment decision to drive to Sturgis, he said.

"I just packed my saddlebags and took off. I didn't even look at a map," he said. "I got lost in Kansas."

Parsons, Culver, Basham and the Fortes were planning to leave Sturgis today or Monday. Saturday afternoon, young couples pushing strollers and tattooed, gray-haired bikers mingled along Main Street, enjoying the last few hours of the rally before gusts of rain hit the town. When the first raindrops hit, the crowds melted away.

Most of the rally crowd will be gone by this afternoon, said Christine Diers, executive director of the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.

"When it's over, it's over," she said. "Poof."

Contact Ruth Moon at 394-8415 or ruth.moon@rapidcityjournal.com

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(2) Comments

  1. peppermint1900
    Report Abuse
    peppermint1900 - August 12, 2012 9:58 am
    So is SMRi going to sue Austria like they sued Kentucky cuz they are using the Sturgis name. Seems only fair!!
  2. Joe Citizen
    Report Abuse
    Joe Citizen - August 12, 2012 8:12 am
    Oh great...now I guess SMRI will go after the Aussie "Little Sturgis" and try to capitalize and destroy! People...shhhhhh! Please!
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