By STEVEN NALLEY
The Sturgis South Bike Rally Board has canceled the 2011 rally after a special meeting with the Sturgis Board of Aldermen Thursday night.
Sturgis Mayor Walter Turner, Alderman Quinnia Yates and board spokesperson Tammy Carlisle would not comment on the board’s decision.
News of the decision came through a written statement issued by the bike rally board late Thursday.
The statement read: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, The Sturgis South Bike Rally Board has decided to cancel the ‘Sturgis Bike Rally’ for the 2011 season. The Bike Rally Board is considering all opportunities for the future growth and prosperity of the 2012 Rally and future bike rallies.
“We sincerely appreciate all of the support of the many bikers, volunteers and communities near and far that has helped make past rallies a success, and we ask for your continued support by contacting the Rally Board via the Rally’s website at http://www.sturgismsrally.com . No further details are available at this time.”
The special meeting came after the Sturgis board’s regular meeting Tuesday, where members voted to reject a contract from the Sturgis bike rally board on the grounds of the insufficient funds the contract offered to the city. It also comes after attorneys with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D. sent a cease and desist letter to the rally’s Mississippi counterpart in 2010, leading the Sturgis South Motorcycle Rally board to tentatively change the rally’s name to the “Red Hills Motorcycle Rally.”
Donny Hanson, rally board president, said one week ago any rumors that the rally would be canceled or moved to another location were false. He said it was true the cease and desist letter played a role in the rally’s planned move from August to Oct. 7-9, together with low intake at recent rallies past that could have been assuaged by the cooler weather of October.
“We went in the hole last year a little over $20,000, and we are trying to work out the rally for this year to where hopefully we won’t go in the hole,” Hanson said. “People do not understand that even though there are reports of 15,000-20,000 people showing up at the rally, there’s only a small handful of those people that actually register at the rally and pay the registration fee and come in to the concerts, and that’s the only source of funds that the rally has. We only had less than 2,000 people actually pay to come in to the concerts.”
While he was not present at the Tuesday meeting, Hanson said he understands money issues led the city board to reject the rally board’s initial contract, and the rally board worked with the city Thursday night to re-evaluate planned expenses.
“The town board can’t go into an agreement if they think they’re going to lose money on it,” Hanson said.
Walter Turner, Sturgis mayor, said the board had been examining the initial contract since last month, and large changes compared with last year’s contract made it impractical to vote on it immediately. Each year, he said, the rally board offers the city a sum of money in exchange for several city services.
“The three biggest costs are security, sanitation and trash pickup,” Turner said. “There are a lot of other services, but those are the big ones.”
Last year, Turner said, the contract called for the rally board to pay the city $17,500 for these services. This year, he said, the initial contract payment was $7,500. He said he worked on a proposal he thought would enable the board to accept this initial offer, but the board ultimately refused.
“I think we’ve cut expenses enough to take the $7,500 proposal, but the board didn’t think so and rejected my proposal and rejected the proposal from rally,” Turner said. “It’s a money thing; it’s not a personal thing between two boards.”
On Tuesday, the board rejected the contract 3-1, with Alderman Mike Collins voting in the contract’s favor and Keith Parker absent. Hanson said it was Parker who approached the rally board about another meeting on the contract.
As someone who served on the rally board for seven years, Turner said he expressed strong disagreement with the Sturgis board’s decision at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I love the rally,” Turner said. “I’ve been with it since it started. It’s been good for the town and its citizens. I don’t want to lose it. I told them after the vote that was the worst decision the Sturgis board has ever made.”