Sturgis Motorcycle Rally: How are Local Businesses and Vendors Preparing?

by Amy Myers

Let the countdown begin–less than 48 hours stand between bikers and the 2021 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. As excited as rally-goers are, venues have to be just as prepared–and maybe even more. And, with this year being the 81st anniversary of the rally, it’s possible attendance could even be record-breaking.

With such high expectations for the rally, local businesses report that it’s crucial to have enough staff members and inventory beforehand.

“You prepare for the rally from January pretty much but we have extra staff that comes down, that’s a lot of preparing for it,” Matt Hensley of Indian Motorcycle Sturgis told Black Hills FOX.

Events and attractions like the rally are the lifeblood of small tourist towns across the nation. Already, many bikers have arrived at the small South Dakota town to start celebrating early. Without knowing if or how the pandemic could still affect this year’s numbers, preparation can be tough for local businesses–especially if you’re new to the game. That’s why so many mom-and-pop shops are eager to become a part of the Black Hills area. One newcomer to the small town this year is Horsepower Nutrition and its owner, Deano Handt.

“We decided to come to Sturgis this year, kind of see how things are but we’re going to leave this location permanently,” Handt shared.

Handt is already impressed with the crowds from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. In fact, Horsepower Nutrition might become a year-round part of the Sturgis community.

How 2021 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Stacks Up Against Past Years

South Dakota officials have been tracking the rally’s expected numbers for months already. Last year’s count of roughly 462,000 people was the lowest in six years. Now that pandemic restrictions are a bit more lenient, there’s no doubt the Black Hills will see more visitors.

“We are already busy. We are getting vendors in; the town is packed right now,” Christina Steele, Sturgis public information officer, stated. “It’s been a very busy summer.”

Steele reported that this year’s numbers could match that of the 75th anniversary in 2015. At the time, attendance reached just over 747,000 people. This number is based on the Department of Transportation’s traffic counts at locations around Sturgis. Now, the city thinks they’ll see the same volume again.

Like 2015, this year holds a special significance to bikers, too. The number “81” might not seem all that special, but to Hell’s Angels, that’s their call sign. The number serves as shorthand for the first letters of their name–8 being “H” and 1 being “A.” Besides the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally of 2081, this is likely the only chance bikers will be able to celebrate the memorable year in South Dakota. Combined with a crowd itching to get back on the road without masks, this year’s rally has the perfect storm for record-breaking numbers.