Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Health officials in eight states report COVID-19 cases from people who were at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally earlier this month. Hundreds of thousands of visitors attended - and South Dakota is now doing mass COVID testing for anyone in Sturgis

The state has hosted a couple of the largest public gatherings since the pandemic began. That includes a Mt. Rushmore fireworks show for thousands earlier this summer.

As a reporter, I covered those events. My exposure to the crowds made me wonder what it takes to get a COVID-19 test in South Dakota.

City of Sturgis

Sturgis city leaders thought attendance at this year’s motorcycle rally might drop by half, but it doesn’t look like attendance fell nearly that much.

The rally ended Sunday. Traffic devices counted about 8 percent fewer vehicles in Sturgis through Friday. Arrests and citations ran close to last year’s numbers. Five people died in traffic accidents, compared to three last year.

Josh Haiar / SDPB

Traffic is down but accidents are up at the Sturgis motorcycle rally.

Captain Jason Ketterling of the South Dakota Highway Patrol says there’s an explanation for that.

“You know when the roads are a little bit more open, people tend to drive a little bit faster I think," Ketterling said.

There have been 76 traffic accidents in western South Dakota during the rally this year. That’s 14 ahead of last year's pace. One of the accidents resulted in the only two traffic deaths of the rally so far.

Sturgis Update

Aug 13, 2020

In The Moment … August 13, 2020 Show 880 Hour 1

SDPB's Seth Tupper joins us from the Black Hills Surgical Hospital Studio inside SDPB' Black Hills Studio for an update regarding the Sturgis Motorcycle rally. 

On the Other Hand: Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Aug 13, 2020

In The Moment … August 13, 2020 Show 880 Hour 1

As the motorcycles surge through Spearfish Canyon in conjunction with the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, if you slow down and take in the view, you might notice something other than wildlife alongside the road. Bob Newland is in his 12th year of photographing South Dakota's largest public event. Kevin Woster writes about Bob on his SDPB blog. You can find Kevin's work online at 


Sturgis Update

Aug 12, 2020

In The Moment … August 12, 2020 Show 879 Hour 1

The 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is halfway over. Whether it's traffic counts or the rally tally (which tracks injury crashes), DUIs, or drug crimes... the rally is looking similar to last year's rally in which 490-thousand people attended. City officials expect about half of that. Joining us to unpack the numbers is SDPB's Lee Strubinger.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Sturgis Rally traffic has been on the rise during the first weekend of the event. The South Dakota Department of Transportation reports about 161,000 vehicles visited Sturgis in the first three days of the rally. That’s down about 4 percent from last year’s numbers. Many at the rally say they’re enjoying a respite from pandemic restrictions in their home state.

80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Aug 7, 2020

In The Moment … August 7, 2020 Show 876 Hour 1

The 80th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally is underway, but not without a major speedbump to the plans. Rally officials expect a much smaller turnout this year than prior anniversary years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Joining us to talk about the rally this year is SDPB's Lee Strubinger.


City of Sturgis

Sturgis will hold a motorcycle rally in early August, but city leaders will make adjustments for COVID-19 and hope for smaller crowds. 

City of Sturgis

City leaders in Sturgis are considering a compromise plan for this year’s annual motorcycle rally. 

Some residents say canceling the rally would devastate the local economy. Others say allowing the rally would expose residents to an outbreak of COVID-19.

In The Moment ... August 13, 2018 Show 399 Hour 1

Black Hills residents can take a sigh of relief as the rumble of motorcycles from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally subsides.

The state is reporting that rally traffic is up from last year, as are felony drug arrests.

However, the number of fatalities are down.

SDPB’s Lee Strubinger joined In The Moment for a look at this year’s Rally Tally


SDPB's Chynna Lockett At Sturgis

Aug 10, 2018

In The Moment ... August 10, 2018 Show 398 Hour 1

What's happening at the 78th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally?  Is it a good year for local businesses and vendors?

SDPB's Chynna Lockett joins In The Moment with a live report from Sturgis.

EPA Fines Harley Davidson On Emissions

Aug 29, 2016
Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Earlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency fined Harley Davidson 15-million-dollars over the sale of an aftermarket device that enhanced bike performance, but increased allowable emissions.

The settlement comes just after the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – and after the EPA leveed a much larger fine on the auto manufacturer VW for violating emission standards.

Giving Back At The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Aug 11, 2016
Kenzie Wagner / SDPB

Every night during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the paid parking lot behind First Interstate Bank is taken over by a local non-profit to raise funds for its organization. The lot is on a main route in the center of town with very high traffic.  Fees are $10 for cars, $5 for motorcycles. Local organizations are sometime able to bring in almost $1,500 a night.


Kenzie Wagner / SDPB

Regional economic developers at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally want more companies to call the Black Hills their home. They view the rally as a chance to network with businesses while promoting the region.


The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is just one week away and roads and businesses won’t be the only places packed with bikers. Rapid City Regional Hospital officials expect the emergency room to be just as overcrowded. So, they’re advising locals to save a trip to the ER for emergencies only and choose urgent care centers whenever possible.  

West River Human Trafficking Task Force

A task force in the Black Hills is pushing a new awareness campaign to help stop human sex trafficking at the Sturgis Rally.  Some officials say raising awareness is important, but the victims of sex trafficking also need support as they recover.

The West River Human Trafficking Task Force is distributing materials to area businesses to raise awareness about the sex trafficking that happens at the Sturgis Rally. Tess Franzen is with the task force. She hopes the information will help all who are affected by human trafficking.

Chynna Lockett / SDPB

The owner of one of Sturgis’s largest biker bars says the new facility is going to be open this year for the rally.

Last year, the Full Throttle Saloon located outside Sturgis near Fort Meade caught fire and burned down.  But Mike Ballard purchased the Broken Spoke Saloon north of Bear Butte earlier this year and is relocating.

Ballard says they are rebuilding the bar in a different building from the Broken Spoke…

JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ MD / Courtesy photo

A group of Native people are planning a demonstration to protest encroachment on Bear Butte.
Members of the Native Lives Matter movement plan to hold a march from Bear Butte to the new Full Throttle Saloon during the Sturgis Rally.


Earlier this year, Mike Ballard, owner of the Full Throttle Saloon got a green light from Meade County commissioners to re-open his facility in a new location. Last year, the Full Throttle burned down, and the new spot Ballard is opening is closer to Bear Butte.

City of Sturgis

Snapchat is coming to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally again this year.

The social media app is a messaging platform that lets users send time sensitive photos and videos to one another. It’s mostly used by millennials, but the Sturgis Rally is mostly attended by baby boomers.


20th Century Racing

26-year old Brittney Olsen of Aberdeen was one of the thousands of bikers who gathered last week in the Black Hills during the 75th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Obviously as a young woman, she’s not the stereotypical biker. Plus she rides what was likely the oldest bike at the rally, a 1923 Harley-Davidson J Model board track racer. 

Sex Trafficking During The Rally

Aug 7, 2015

Dakota Midday continued its week-long look into the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Thursday as SDPB's Charles Michael Ray visited with Windie Lazenko about sex trafficking during the event.  Lazenko was a victim of sex trafficking at the age of 13.  She discussed her experiences and the history of sex trafficking during the annual August event.

You can find out more about the organization 4 Her here.

Sturgis Rally Economic Boom Is Not Just For Sturgis

Aug 6, 2015
Gary Ellenbolt / South Dakota Public Broadcasting

Officials are expecting as many as one million people at this week’s Sturgis Bike Rally.  This is a great time to be a merchant in the Black Hills, since everyone who attends the rally needs to eat, sleep, and get something to take home for the kids.  But the towns in far West River are not the only ones to benefit from the bikers. 

South Dakota Welcomes Bikers

Aug 4, 2015

The 75th annual Sturgis Rally is in full swing, and South Dakota rolled out the red carpet, but not how you’d think. Information Centers across the state get ready for Sturgis every year, because the rest stops could be the first contact visitors have with South Dakotans.

This sound can be heard throughout the state this week. Bikers from around the country are flocking to South Dakota. If you’re in South Dakota . . . the Sturgis Rally is hard to escape. Take the folks at an interstate rest stop . . . 420 miles outside Sturgis.

“My name is Curtis.”

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

The 75th anniversary of the Sturgis Rally this week could double the population in South Dakota. If you somehow haven’t encountered bikes in person, you can’t escape them in the news. As part of our continuing coverage of the rally, here is one story that profiles some of the people you might encounter gliding through the state on two wheels.

Charles Michael Ray SDPB

An estimated one million people could be in the Black Hills this week for the 75th annual Sturgis Rally, which officially begins today. That would be the largest numbers of people ever recorded for the event. Last year’s event attracted less than half that, with an estimated 442,000 people in Sturgis. SDPB's Kent Osborne is one of the thousands of bikers at the rally and he joined Dakota Midday from downtown Sturgis.

See his blog post from the day.

The Humble Beginnings Of A Mega Bike Rally

Aug 3, 2015
Charles Michael Ray

The Sturgis Rally is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and if you’re listening to SDPB anywhere in the Black Hills or near a major highway anywhere in the state, it’s likely there is a rumbling motorcycle within earshot.

That’s because there are so many motorcycles in the state right now.  The rally could draw up to one million bikers this year.   The traffic numbers are already higher than average.  But 75 years ago the Sturgis Rally had a more humble beginning.

Five men face felony charges for trying to have sex with children following the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The number is down from the nine arrested during last year’s rally in the Black Hills.

The men arrested for sex crimes at Sturgis this year are from all over: Nebraska, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and California. One even lives in Canada.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says officers with the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit set up fake ads online offering sex with kids in exchange for money.

Amy Varland

Sturgis Brown High School students are participating in the annual Buffalo Chip Student Build Challenge. The students are getting a lesson in creativity, exposure to the industrial arts - and helping local charities.

Organizers say the Student Build Challenge is a group project where a new Harley Davidson motorcycle is stripped down, cut in half, and rebuilt using donated motorcycle parts.

The rebuilt, state-of-the-art motorcycle is then auctioned off at the rally - proceeds go to local charities.

Legends Ride Helps Local Charities

Aug 5, 2014
Amy Varland

The 74th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is in full swing and celebrities from the motorcycle, music, and entertainment industries are getting together to show their support for South Dakota charities.

Organizers say the Legends Ride was started by the Sturgis Buffalo Chip to raise money to help South Dakota youth and also to preserve the history of motorcycling.

Frank Fritz from the television show American Pickers is among the personalities taking part in the Legends Ride. Fritz has attended the Sturgis Rally for the last thirty-one years.