STURGIS | The Black Hills roared with motorcycles and crowds Friday as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally started amid a rise in COVID-19 cases in the state.
Organizers expect at least 700,000 people during the 10-day event. On Thursday, the eve of the official opening, downtown Sturgis was clogged with Harleys, rallygoers packed shoulder-to-shoulder at bars and rock shows, and masks were nowhere in sight.
The rally is a rendezvous for bikers, who connect over their love for motorcycles. For some, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime goal to make it to Sturgis; others faithfully make the pilgrimage year after year.
“It’s just nice to see everybody out and about, being able to just be friends with everybody,” said Pam Williamson, a rallygoer from Kansas.
Public health experts and some locals worry the rally will again play host to coronavirus infections. Only about 46% of adults who live in Meade County are fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared with 60.6% nationwide.
Virus infections are on the rise in South Dakota after a steady decline through the spring and early summer. The Department of Health reported a 68% jump in virus infections last week, with the highly contagious delta variant spurring a larger share of those infections.
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