The Sturgis motorcycle rally is going ahead for 2020, although it won’t look the same as usual. City leaders have started issuing rally permits after businesses said they would be going ahead with rally plans, with or without permission.
Thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic, many North American moto events have either been postponed or outright cancelled. Many of the festivities around Daytona Bike Week were axed, Laconia and Americade were postponed, and here in Canada, the Wharf Rat Rally has been cancelled for 2020.
Why is Sturgis going ahead, then? First off, the mid-August date means, hopefully, the coronavirus pandemic will be less of an issue then (the rally is scheduled for August 7-16, although some will be showing up earlier or staying later). At least, that’s the way many rallygoers see it, it seems. Second, while the town does have a lot of input into the rally, it doesn’t technically own the event—attempts to trademark the rally’s name, and protect it, have failed in court.
So, if nobody owns the rally, nobody can really cancel it—besides, a lot of people will show up ready to party anyway. It doesn’t matter whether or not there’s anything official organized, motorcyclists are going to travel to Sturgis in mid-August, because they’ve been doing so for decades. This is the 80th anniversary of the rally, and even if traffic is down, riders are going to attend, unless Sturgis town officials barricade the streets. If that happened, bikers would just party outside town; that’s what they did in past years, when the town tried to axe the rally.
However, there will be some differences in the 2020 rally. Some of the rally’s events will be cancelled. Organizers are installing hand-washing stations and trying to get rallygoers to follow CDC instructions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as there’s a likelihood of transmission by visitors, considering the sheer volume of bikes at Sturgis (500,000 riders, or more).
Will there be as many riders at Sturgis this year, though? Probably not. But considering the North American public’s growing impatience with, and rejection of, quarantine measures, this might turn out to be a surprisingly well-attended event, even in the face of a pandemic.