When the decision was made to go ahead with this year’s 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally despite the coronavirus pandemic, the official prediction for attendance was that it would drop by half from around 500,000 to about 250,000. Boy was that wrong.
Based on South Dakota Dept of Transportation vehicle counts at 9 locations entering Sturgis, it took just 5 of the 10 days to shatter the prediction.
The department says that through Tuesday, the estimated attendance was 270,488 – a drop of just 6% from last year.
Tuesday’s count of 52,710 had the biggest percentage drop from a year ago at 11.2%, but the daily totals have ranged from Friday’s just under 50,000 to Monday’s nearly 57,000.
Rally goers have kept law enforcement busy with numbers close to last year. The South Dakota Highway Patrol has made 82 DUII arrests, 15 fewer than last year, and 71 felony drug arrests, 2 less than through the first 5 of the Rally a year ago.
The State Patrol has also made same number of misdemeanor drug arrests as last year, 128, but the Sturgis Police Department reports a significant jump in their misdemeanor drug arrests.
The number of accidents continues to run higher than a year ago, 64 to 51, with 5 more injury and 8 more non-injury accidents at 33 and 31 respectively.
There were 5 injury accidents on Tuesday. In the most serious, two Harley Davidsons collided when one of them failed to yield the right-of-way at the intersection of Hwys 14 and 85 in Deadwood.
One rider was wearing a helmet and suffered only minor injuries. The other, a 36-year old woman, did not have a helmet and suffered life-threatening injuries. Charges are pending against both riders.
There was 1 fatal accident through the first 5 days both years, but there were 2 deaths in this year when 3 motorcycles collided late Monday afternoon on Hwy 14A about 3 miles west of Sturgis.