Bikers: ‘This is better than Christmas’

Gray Hughes

The roar of a motorcycle engine became the soundtrack in Hill City starting Aug. 7 as the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally officially kicked off.

Main Street was closed to all traffic save bikers, and the streets were packed as Rally goers came from all over to enjoy what Hill City has to offer.

“It’s just nice to see people out and about again,” said Bob Jacobson, who made the trek from Alabama for the tenth consecutive year. “I’m excited to be here.”

Many of those in attendance were talking about how beautiful Hill City and the general Black Hills area is. Jacobson went as far to say: “This is God’s country.”

At Monday night’s Hill City Common Council meeting, Sgt. Randy Harkins of the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office said the Rally has been good thus far.

“We’ve had a lot of people in town, and we have a lot of deputies in town,” he said. “We’re doing the best we can for the community.”

According to information from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, as of Monday, the Rapid City district for the Sturgis Rally had seen 11 driving under the influence charges, 19 misdemeanor drug charges, 10 felony drug charges, 143 citations, 316 warnings and $776 in cash seized.

There were five non-injury accidents and seven accidents resulting in injuries. There had been no fatal accidents.

The sidewalks were teeming with Rally goers, with people darting in and out of stores. For many Hill City businesses — both seasonal and year-round — Rally can either make or break a season.

For many Rally goers, the Rally represents what many love so much about riding: comradery.

It’s the fellowship that brought Tina Swan, from Minnesota, to the Rally.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” she said with a laugh. “To me, this is better than Christmas.”

Swan said she likes to spend time with the fellow Rally goers. She likes to hear stories, what brought people here and their experience biking.

Carl Michaels, who made the trek from Maryland, said he was excited to not have to wear a mask.

“It’s nice not having to wear a mask,” he said. “It’s nice to be in an area where the governor respects personal choice.”

This is Michaels’ first Rally, and he said he just got into biking. He said he wanted to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the 80th Sturgis Rally.

Like Swan, Michaels enjoys the brotherhood that comes with riding a motorcycle.

“Because of the great people I’ve met while on a bike, I’m hooked,” Michaels said. “And I want to come back to the Black Hills for the Rally every year now.”

Hill City, too, is prepared for the influx of people the Rally brings to  town.

To assist with parking issues, the city has opened up the basketball and tennis court area between the Boys and Girls Club and the Hill City Senior Center as a new municipal parking lot.

During the week of the Rally, some of the area will be used for the Lions Club and senior center breakfast; however, there will be additional parking spots in that area for use.

Kathy Skorzewski, Hill City mayor, prepared a statement that she then delivered via YouTube last week.

“I’m not sure where the time went, but it’s August, and we’re already hearing the roar of the motorcycles as the Rally is upon us,” she said.

Hill City has been — and will continue to — monitor COVID-19 cases in the state as well as the Hill City area, she said. Over the last couple of months, the growth rate in the area has been low, which Skorzewksi said is great news considering all the visitors town has seen.

The city, though, is prepared to enact emergency legislation process should the town experience a large spike in cases.

“You all have done an excellent job taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus and should be proud,” she said. “As much of the the country is still dealing with significant spikes, we seem to be holding out here. The city is committed to being mindful of the health and safety of our community and guests.”

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