Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie presented the City Council with three options Monday night regarding the 80th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally during a special meeting.
Ultimately, Ainslie recommended postponing the rally until 2021 but to prepare for an influx of visitors.
Ainslie said part of the preparation would include making personal protective equipment available for local businesses and city staff, as well as installing sanitization stations throughout the city and closing Main Street.
Little preparation or simply canceling the rally would create a health and safety hazard for residents, he said.
Derrick Haskins, communications director for the state Department of Health, said in an email to the Journal that the health department has been in discussions with the city about the rally and offered to review any mitigation planning if it were to be approved.
Many, including nurses, who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting said they were concerned about the potential spread of COVID-19.
One said the hospital where she works would not be able to handle the number of potential cases that they’re accustomed to receiving during rally week while handling COVID-19 patients.
“We have freedom, but we also have responsibility,” she said.
She said she understands the council has a difficult decision to make, but it also has a responsibility to keep the public and the residents of Sturgis safe.
Ainslie said he spoke with business owners, hotel/motel owners, campground owners, hospitals, and state and federal officials. He said the most common thing they heard was that people were coming even if the city didn't hold the rally.
“The reality is there’s going to be a lot of people in town and businesses that are going to be open,” he said.
Many watching the council’s broadcast from Facebook Live commented on the video stating they were heading for the rally from other states.
Ainslie said law enforcement told the city that people who are usually hired from out of state to help with security at the rally likely wouldn't come and as a result they would need support.
He also said Lead, Deadwood and Spearfish said they would support the city no matter its decision but also expect to see rally visitors.
The first resident to speak during public comment asked the council to continue the rally for veterans.
“I’m begging you for the veterans that have given their lives... do this for them and don’t dishonor them” by not having it, the resident said.
Another resident asked the council to move ahead with the rally to honor the community and the nation.
Ainslie said state officials said there’s no order about social distancing or limiting crowd size, nor is one anticipated.
The other two options Ainslie presented were canceling the rally or proceeding with it. To proceed, he said Sturgis would have a “significant spotlight” to see how it handled the event. He also said Disneyworld, Las Vegas and other large tourist attractions are reopening, and the rally isn’t nearly that large.
Ainslie also said it would be illegal to block people from coming into Sturgis with a barricade.
A few business owners spoke before the council and said if they didn’t approve the rally, they would likely lose a big portion of their income, including a bartender who said he’d lose one-third of his income. A 70-year-old Piedmont business owner said he’d lose 50% of his annual income without the rally and encouraged the council to proceed with it for 2020.
The City Council will have its official vote to decide the fate of the Rally at its next meeting June 15.
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