Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 2021: City Manager Says Crowd is ‘Far Younger’ This Year

by Samantha Whidden

With the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally set to end on Sunday (August 15th), Sturgis city manager, Daniel Ainslie reflects on this year’s event and how it stood out from the previous years. 

During his interview with Rapid City Journal, Ainslie stated that more than a third of those attending last years Sturgis Motorcycle Rally were first-time rally-goers and during the 2020 event, 90% stated that would be returning to the 2021 rally. “Our surveys are not done yet, but early reports say a huge portion of those people came back. It’s a far younger crowd that came this year,” he observed. 

The City Manager further explains that for more than a decade Sturgis Motorcycle Rally planners have been looking for ways to bring the younger demographic to the event. He says that a major sponsor predicted that the 75th Rally in 2015 would actually be the last big rally. This is due to the attendance tailing off in the previous years. 

Ainslie also states that estimates of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 2021 significantly exceeding 2020’s 460,000. But did fall short of the early predictions of up to a million. The manager thinks it was around 600,000. “Considering how many people were not able to be here because of their ages or international travel. This was a mammoth rally,” he explains. “Probably the second-largest rally we’ve had in the last 10 to 20 years.”

Ainslie further estimates that 1% to 2% of the crowd at the 2021 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally are international visitors, down from the usual 10% that come from outside the U.S. Due to Canada recently re-opening its borders to travel, there wasn’t enough time for Canadian visitors to plan the trip to Sturgis, he adds. 

Has COVID-19 Effected Attendence For Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 2021?

Ainslie says those who are at high risk for COVID-19 serious complications have stayed away from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. “I think the reality is, most people have already had the virus and have had more than enough opportunity to receive the vaccination. People are moving on.”

He then says if everyone looks at the age demographic at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 2021, a lot of people in the high-risk categories decided not to come. “Which is probably a good choice. Hopefully next year, the world will have been able to move on even more. They’ll be able to join us again.”

There had been some concerns about this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally becoming a huge superspreader event. Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci stated he was concerned the event would cause cases to continue to surge in the U.S. CDC researchers also previously reported that the 2020 Sturgis rally had more than 460 attendees infected with the virus. Prior to the annual event, South Dakota reported a 68 percent increase in COVID-19 cases.