Opinion: The Sturgis Experiment

This weekend, probably the largest gathering in the world this year will take place at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. Forget limiting the size of groups. Forget mandatory masks. In fact, for 10 days, just forget Covid-19. It’s all a conspiracy anyway, stoked by the Liberals / Chinese / BLM / whatever fits. Let’s put that aside and celebrate American Freedom!

Free-dumb, more like.

Organizers anticipate a quarter of a million bikers will converge on the town of 7,000, just outside the Black Hills, which will be a subdued rally with about half the attendance of last year. Others think attendance might actually increase, since this is a chance to finally get out and party, and to let your remaining hair fly in the wind of the helmetless state. Canadians will have a hard time crossing the border to attend, and thank God for that, but Americans can just get on their bikes and ride on over.

South Dakota has been fairly well insulated from the Covid-19 virus because it’s a low-population, rural state, though the numbers are now climbing. It’s one of only two states, with neighbouring Iowa, to not have any mandatory requirement for wearing a mask in public places. When 7,500 people got together with President Trump at Mount Rushmore on July 3 to celebrate the eve of Independence Day, there was apparently no outbreak of the virus after the event. So far, South Dakota has reported about 9,000 known cases of Covid-19 with just over 130 deaths, which is significantly fewer than states like Florida, California and Texas.

But there’ll be thousands of bikers from all those states riding in to Sturgis this weekend, and while they’ll be safe from catching the virus while they’re out in the fresh air on their motorcycles, it will be very different once they park their bikes and start drinking in the local bars, or standing in the crowds of the concerts, the races and the downtown throng.

In its defence, the City of Sturgis took its responsibility very seriously and surveyed numerous exhibitors, authorities and potential participants before making the final decision in June to go ahead with the 80-year-old annual rally. A survey of local residents showed 60 per cent wanted the event cancelled, but in the end, money talked – after all, in a good year, the event earns close to $800 million U.S. for the region.

According to the Associated Press, a tourism souvenir wholesaler threatened to sue the city if the event was cancelled. Supporters argued that the Sturgis rally is too big to contain, especially against hundreds of thousands of freedom-loving bikers.

Even if it was shut down, plenty would still turn up and look for places to stay and eat and drink. The huge Buffalo Chip Campground just outside town recognized this and announced it would stay open for them. Of course, it was almost unfathomable that it might do otherwise, since it basically exists for the rally. “We spend money for 355 days of the year without any return on it, hoping people show up for nine days,” its operator, Rod Woodruff, told the AP. “We’re a nine-day business.”

There are rules in the City of Sturgis to try to protect participants from the virus. There’ll be hand-washing stations everywhere, vendors are “encouraged” to wear masks, and groups are asked to keep a physical distance from others.

The normal fire marshal’s maximum capacity of people in any business is halved. The parade is cancelled, and the photo towers that you can climb to get a better view of Main Street will be closed. Take a look at the City of Sturgis live webcams to decide for yourself if the precautions are working.

It gets pretty raucous though – I should know, I spent a night in the city jail during my first rally there – and many of the participants will be the virus deniers who’ve assured Covid’s calamitous spread in other states. Organizers say that after the rally ends on August 16th, all residents will be tested for the virus to find out how they fared. However, those are only 7,000 probably-cautious people out of the hundreds of thousands who’ll attend, and we’ll likely never know the true consequences as the rally-goers fan back to their homes across the United States. Any increase in the national death rate will be blamed on the end of summer.

Why should you care about this if you’re safe in Canada? There are two reasons.
The most obvious is that the massive Sturgis rally will probably create an unprecedented surge of Covid-19 in a country that’s already struggling to contain the virus. It will kill and sicken more of our American neighbours, not just those who attended the rally, and will keep our international border closed all the longer.

But the other is that these stupid, selfish Darwinist rally-goers are bikers, giving all motorcyclists a bad name. A quarter of them are retired, the average age is 54, and 75 per cent of them ride Harley-Davidsons. The true test of this huge health experiment will be seen next year, when we find out the new demographic of Sturgis’s 2021 participants. If I was the CEO of already-challenged Harley-Davidson, I think I’d be slapping my forehead now and hanging up my boots.


  1. What an ignorant motorcycle hating fool. Not sure why you are writing for CMG. Not impressed by your attempt to show your street cred by saying you spent the night in jail there once.. I highly doubt that. You should be happy now, knowing Harley is shutting Canadian dealers. Now you, and the other metric wannabes, can sing your victory song. I feel for my many brothers and sisters from the north that will lose that small light of the freedom lifestyle, that HD brings us all. You are nothing more than a thinly veiled proponent of the socialist agenda. An agenda proven to fail time and time again by the historical record around the world. Do us all a favor, don’t cross down into the lower 48 again, we don’t want you here.

    • Socialist agenda… Clearly you know nothing of Harley-Davidson’s history. I recommend Fortnine’s Harley-Davidson video on YouTube.

    • John,

      Rest assured that Mark won’t be visiting the US anytime soon. The border is closed to non-essential travel between Canada and the US in a mutual agreement dating back in March. The closure was to mitigate the spread of the virus and, unfortunately, things haven’t improved enough to enable travel to recommence.

      Stay healthy during these challenging times.

    • This is a National Health issue. Even if you fail to understand or believe Scientists, CDC, or your personal Physician the death toll (per captita) in the USA is still climbing…..quickly. Death tolls do not lie. Basic arithmetic does not lie. Social distance, basic hygiene and masking is the best defence against the virus you have at present. DO IT! If you will not, there will be fewer and fewer motorcyclists to attend ANY events in the years to come in the U.S. and elsewhere. It is not about FREEDOM it is about RESPONSIBILITY to your COMMUNITY. If you do not understand that….stay away from me, my family, and community. Instead of being a motorcycling CLICHE try being a RESPONSIBLE LEADER…..oh I forgot where you live….never mind. Carry on….get ill, and strengthen the gene pool for the rest of us.

  2. As of August 25, 2020, there are “at least 103 new Coronavirus cases in 8 states linked to” this year’s Sturgis rally.

  3. Gonna be alot of used Harleys on ebay and craigs list for sale in the near future I think. Stupid is as stupid does.Harley Davidson is dying a slow death . We had x2 of x3 dealers shut down here ih New Brunswick in the last few weeks.Eldridges in St John and Stewarts in the Mirimichi no more Harleys.Dealers left out east are x1 in NFLD / x2 in N.S. [ Halifax and Sydney ] x1 in PEI and x1 in Moncton N.B.. Should do a story on this!

  4. There is absolutely no danger for anyone attending the Sturgis rally this year. Because as everyone knows, you can’t catch anything on a Harley! Okay, okay, let the beatings commence…

  5. Looking at the webcams this morning (admittedly it’s still fairly early on Friday, the first day), and it’s looking pretty quiet in Sturgis so far.

    I suspect attendance may be significantly impacted.

  6. I seem to miss how Trump is responsible for the spread of the plague, but this article found a tether to join the two. Freedom or free-dum as the authors creative word goes is pretty lame too. I wonder if he would apply adjectives like stupid, moronic, brainless, and yes even dumb to the BLM riots both ongoing and recent. And yet the spread of the plague is as likely in that situation.
    Choose wisely as to not bite the hand that feeds, Mark you mastered this well.

    Let’s just see how many dozens of shootings are apparent at the festival and then make a better prediction on “ peaceful gatherings “.

  7. Socialism / Communism is alive and well in England, Canada, and at CMG.

    I’ve never been to Sturgis, I don’t ride a Harley, but I wish all the Americans who wish to go a good time and hope President Trump wins the upcoming US election.

    Now; how else can I piss you off today?

    • Robert, it’s highly doubtful that you have managed to piss off anyone at all. On the other hand there may be a few who feel a trifle sorry for you.

      • To me, it’s more that Bobbi’s opinion doesn’t even matter, since it really has nothing to do with the conversation. Even if he was to answer, he’s not worth anyone’s time.

    • I’m a huge fan of Sturgis – except during a pandemic. Staying home is a wiser option than becoming a conduit to the sickness or death of someone you affect unknowingly.

      For those who comment in here simply to inflame politically (for either side) – I have only one question:

      How does it feel to have a politicians hand so far up your ass – that you’re now their puppet?

      I can’t imagine selling out my perspective to any politician – right or left. This my question.

  8. Wow, redefining a cluster. All of these f#ckwits are going get back in their trucks towing their trailer queens to wherever they came from and further the American sh#tshow. If the Government wasn’t so incompetent, there’d be an intervention.

    It’s wild watching an empire die in real-time. We’re witnessing history. I watched the Soviet Union collapse, now the American Empire and a major pandemic crippling the world’s economy for a second time in a decade. I mean, wow!! Sadly, climate change will make all of this look like a bump in the road.

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