Around 5 a.m. there are maybe four people awake and walking around in Sturgis on the first day of the rally: a man in a neon pink t-shirt with cargo shorts walking away, a man playing guitar on the steps of a shop on Main Street keeping the party alive, and a couple making their way around downtown.
Others affiliated with the city ride in trucks, wash the streets, straighten American flags shifting in the breeze, occasionally bumping a guard rail that reads "no motorcycle parking beyond this point." It's peaceful and almost unrecognizable from the hundreds of people walking throughout downtown Sturgis just before the 80th motorcycle rally, save for the neon lights.
The first motorcycle could be heard riding south down Junction Avenue at 5:27 a.m., echoing throughout the city, seemingly waking other bikes that roared to life in the distance. The rally has risen.
As a barely 23-year-old from the suburbs of Austin who attended the University of Oklahoma, I’m no stranger to crowds or blasting music — whoever played “Money” by Pink Floyd around 6: 30 a.m. Friday, please know it was much appreciated — but I never thought I’d find myself at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, let alone during a pandemic, or in South Dakota for that matter.
But here we are.
The Monday before the rally began, I wandered around downtown Sturgis with a new friend and the Journal’s new photographer, watching as early birds set up their tents or make purchases, then saw it grow, almost exponentially, two days later.
A small carnival was fully built and features the rally’s first observation wheel, tents previously filled with boxes were fully decked out in t-shirts and other merchandise, motorcycles almost filled every parking spot on Main Street and different music poured out from every speaker visible.
I can hardly wait to see what it looks and sounds like next week.
The 80th rally within city limits is different from usual — there’s no opening ceremony, there are no photo towers, there’s no zipline — so I understand many first-timers, like myself, may not get the full rally experience. Maybe that’s for the best with COVID-19 cases still rising across the nation. But it seems like many of you, like Bob Miller from Illinois who came just to receive his 20-year patch, are ready to make the most of it.
As you do, please keep me and the Journal in mind. We want to hear your thoughts, tell your stories and share the experience with those who couldn’t make it out this year.
I want to learn about the rally, the people who attend it, the people who travel to sell their products, food or craftsmanship. I honestly don’t know much about motorcycles, although this week I learned a little about Harley-Davidson Ultra Classics thanks to a pair of brothers from Illinois, as well as an old, Italian family sausage recipe from a man who grew up in Napoli, Italy. I hope to learn more throughout the week, and I hope those visiting Sturgis will be as open to teaching me.
That being said, I also want to learn about the residents of Sturgis and surrounding municipalities, how the rally impacts you, what having it this year means, experiences you’ve had with it. I’m all ears.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 605-394-8414.
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