STURGIS | A late influx of visitors helped make the 2018 Sturgis motorcycle rally the second most attended rally in the past 10 years, officials said Thursday.
According to figures released during Thursday’s 2nd Annual After-Rally Summit in Sturgis, 495,000 people attended the 78th rally, up from 480,000 in 2017, but short of the record 739,000 during the 75th rally in 2015.
“It was a very good, healthy, strong rally,” Sturgis city manager Daniel Ainslie said.
Ainslie said the late rush of visitors on the final weekend of the 10-day event, which went from Aug. 3-12, was no accident.
Rally organizers keyed an advertising push to lure visitors living within an eight- to nine-hour drive of the Black Hills, hoping to inspire a spur-of-the-moment decision to come to Sturgis for the final weekend.
“We saw a huge influx of people from eastern South Dakota, Minnesota and Northern Colorado. That made a huge difference. The last four days of the rally were way stronger than in previous years,” Ainslie said.
Other figures released Thursday included the total economic impact to the state of South Dakota, which was $786 million.
Additionally, officials tracked charitable fund-raising through the rally for the first time, with $583,000 reported raised for local non-profits, including through city events such as the annual Mayor’s Ride, and private events, including church breakfasts.
“I don’t think people realize how big a fundraising event the Sturgis rally is,” Ainslie said.
Ainslie said the average age of 2018 rally attendees was 49, down from the average age of 52 in 2015. Fifteen percent of attendees have attended the rally at least 25 times, with 24 percent attending their first rally in 2018.
Of those first-time rally-goers, 90 percent plan to return. The average stay is five days, with 50 percent of the visitors staying at a campground and 18 percent staying at a hotel or motel.
The 79th rally is set for August 2-11, 2019.