A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:
It’s almost rally time in South Dakota. What started in 1938 as a single motorcycle race in a small town has grown into one of the largest and best-known motorcycle gatherings in the world. This year is the 77th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and though we don’t expect the numbers will approach the levels we saw two years ago, the rally is sure to bring a crowd.
Motorcycle enthusiasts won’t just be visiting Sturgis. They will be traveling all around the Black Hills – staying in our hotels and at our campgrounds, eating in our local restaurants, shopping in our stores and refueling at our gas stations. Each year the rally has a big economic impact on Sturgis and all of the Black Hills, and that creates benefits for our state too.
An event this size is not without its challenges. To help things go smoothly, the state has opened the Rally Operations Center and a Traffic Operations Center. Local law enforcement, the Highway Patrol and ambulance services will have additional personnel working during the rally.
Many state agencies will provide additional staff to support food safety, drinking water safety, fire safety, roadway safety, emergency communications, and vendor sales tax registrations and collections. National Guard soldiers will also be prepared in the event they are needed to respond to a large-scale disaster.
For the past 76 years, we’ve had no major emergency at the Sturgis Rally. Our goal is to get through the 77th rally with that record intact, but we need help.
We’re asking South Dakotans to do their part to help make this a safe journey for our visitors. Drive carefully and be particularly mindful of the motorcycles on the road. Don’t get distracted by electronic devices. It only takes one mistake to alter your life and someone else’s forever. If you live in the Black Hills area, leave extra time to reach your destinations, and be patient with law enforcement and emergency responders. If something doesn’t look right, let law enforcement know.
For those who are attending the rally, be careful and be prepared. Wear a helmet and proper riding attire. If you are driving a vehicle, wear your seatbelt. Most importantly, don’t drink and drive.
Riders can visit SouthDakotaRides.com for real-time information and some helpful tips. On the website are links to weather updates, fire danger information, Twitter feeds from the departments of Transportation and Public Safety, and a map of hospital, urgent care, and police station locations.
One of government’s primary functions is to keep people safe. The state of South Dakota is ready to perform that responsibility and we welcome the opportunity to host so many visitors in our great state. If South Dakotans and our visitors do their part, it will go a long way toward helping make the 77th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally a safe and fun event.