Rally wrap-up

Gray Hughes

The 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is in the books.

Across the area, attractions, businesses and nonprofits are reporting a strong week.

“Numbers are up from last year,” said Michelle Olson with the Bumpin’ Buffalo. “Thank you, Rally-goers and our governor.”

Many businesses interviewed reported that many attendees commented on Gov. Kristi Noem’s decision to neither shut down large events nor mandate masks, a practice that is commonplace throughout the rest of the country.

Olson said the people she served at her business were very happy.

“Love our governor for being kind to visitors,” Olson added. “She should be the next president-elect.”

Rick Mills, curator of the South Dakota State Railroad Museum, reported similar findings.

Personally, he said, he wish he had a dollar for each of the visitors during Rally who commented on Gov. Noem’s handling of the pandemic.

“The majority were positive but (there were) a few who questioned her motivations,” Mills said.

At Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Maureen McGee-Ballinger, director of interpretation, said the Rally had been going well.

She said she will not have the visitation numbers until the end of the month; however, the July visitation numbers were higher than July of 2019.

All visitors, though, seem to be happy to be in the Black Hills and have been enjoying the great weather, she added.

At the railroad museum, Mills said the Rally went better than expected; however, he said he is “wary” of the uptick in COVID-19 cases in the weeks to follow.

The attendance at the museum was nearly identical to 2019 through Aug. 14.

“Many of the visitors were thankful and somewhat surprised at ‘how open’ the Hills are during the COVID closures elsewhere.”

For Lorena Freis, owner of The Farmer’s Daughter, the Rally was very good for her store.

Everyone who came was so happy to be out and about again and be “normal,” Freis said.

“It’s been such a pleasure to work with all the bikers this year,” she said. “I do believe we are up a smidge from last year for the Rally.”

The Hill City Senior Center held its traditional Rally Breakfast throughout the week.

Mary Walton, executive director for the Senior Center, said the center was up from last year — from 2,600 individuals served last year to 3,004 individuals served this year.

“I think it went very well,” Walton said. “We were very busy.”

Everyone loved the setup this year — which featured ordering at the window rather than going through the buffet line in the senior center. Walton said the senior center is likely to do this setup again next year.

The breakfast had a lot of repeat customers, she added, with many calling in to ensure that breakfast be served, as is tradition.

Walton, too, said she worked the crowd and made sure everyone was happy. She had no complaints.

“It went very smoothly, and we’re very happy,” she said.

There were a number of volunteers who stepped up to ensure the breakfast was running day-in and day-out. There were handfuls of volunteers, too, who were at the breakfast every day, Walton said.

There were even some kids who came and helped out running food, rolling silverware and pouring syrup, she added.

Overall, Walton was very thankful for the support she received from the Hill City community.

“Looking forward to next year, there really isn’t anything I’d change,” Walton said.

Every year, Hill City closes Main Street to all traffic save motorcycles. The blockade went up early the morning of Aug. 7 and was not taken down until early in the morning on Aug. 16.

“It was a sound decision as I snapped (a picture) at 2:20 p.m. on Aug. 15,” Kathy Skorzewski, Hill City mayor, wrote on a Facebook post. “Our streets were still filled with motorcycles.”

COVID-19 at Bumpin’ Buffalo

The Bumpin’ Buffalo did have an employee test positive for COVID-19, the South Dakota Department of Health reported on Aug. 14.

 The individual worked at the business while able to transmit the virus to others on Aug. 9 from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Aug. 10 form 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Aug. 11 from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Due to risk of exposure, individuals who visited the Bumpin’ Buffalo during these times and dates should monitor their symptoms for 14 days after their visit.

“I have spoken directly with the owner and manager of (the Bumpin’ Buffalo) for the cirucmstances involving this report,” Skorzewski wrote on Facebook. “They have confirmed one worker did test positive and was immediately removed from service. Others have been tested in their household and received negative results.”

The Bumpin’ Buffalo, Skorzewski said, has continued to address this by its increased cleaning and sterilization processes as well as encouraging the use of hand sanitizer that has been readily provided to staff and customers.

The Bumpin’ Buffalo, too continues to utilize disposable paper products to limit the possibility of any spread.

“We as a city will continue to monitor this and any other situations that may come up and provide you with updates as they become available,” Skorzewski said.

Fatality at Rally

On Aug. 12, a 55-year-old woman died as a result of injuries sustained in a one-vehicle crash seven miles east of Hill City on Hwy. 16 at mile marker 47.

At approximately 9:30 p.m. on that day, the woman — who had not been identified come press time — was riding a 2019 Harley Davidson FLHTK Ultra Limited driven westbound by a 55-year-old male when she struck a calf in the driving lane, according to a release from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

The motorcycle tipped over and both occupants were thrown from the motorcycle. The male driver sustained serious non-life threatening injuries. The female received life-threatening injuries and died Aug. 13 at a Rapid City hospital.

Neither were wearing a helmet, the release said, and charges are not pending.

In total, there were 30 DUI charges within the Rapid City district during the Rally, according to the most recent numbers from the department of public safety.

There were 68 misdemeanor drug charges within the Rapid City district and 44 felony drug charges. A total of 417 citations were issued within the district, and a total of 1,046 warnings were handed out.

Further, according to the department of safety, a total of $11,585 was seized. There was a total of 32 non-injury accidents within the Rapid City district with a total of three fatalities.

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