Businesses keep the Rally on their calendar

Sturgis Smokehouse BBQ General Manager Marie Miller and owner Mark Welch stand in front of their business. This is the barbecue restaurant's first Rally since opening early this year. (Photo by Sarah Raines, SDN)
Staff Writer

Down the road from the busy strip of Highway 12 of downtown Sturgis, smoke rose from the grills of a wooden barbecue joint which shares a parking lot of CB's Liquor & Wine and Chevron.

Owner of Sturgis Smokehouse BBQ Mark Welch has been in business for six months. The business is located where Craig Springs Road meets Highway 12, and Welch had rally visitors visiting his main shop as well as the tent he set up alongside other vendors along the highway.

Welch owns a bike himself and said he enjoys riding, but was there for business. In anticipation of his first year open during the Rally, Welch added a covered seating area to his restaurant to accommodate guests.

"Motorcyclists will stop in little hole-in-the-walls like this to eat at events like this," Welch said.

Welch said though riding is an expensive hobby, it's hard to find people who are nicer or friendlier than those at events like the Rally.

President of Gulf Coast Silk Screening & Embroidery in Biloxi Brian Wilson was selling colorful T-shirts with custom designs, made on site in his tent. Shirts with a wolf howling in front of a dream catcher and a motorcycle in the foregroundwhich read "The Rally: The Official Shirt" were on sale.

Wilson has been coming to the Rally to sell T-shirts for 15 years.

"This is a lot different from other rallies we've done," Wilson said. "Some rallies are a lot wilder than this one. This one is more family-friendly. We'll keep coming until they close it down."

Big Daddy Tees from Orlando had shirts to display as well as rally pins and jewelry.

Owner Imre Vali has been coming to every Rally. While traveling between different events, Vali said he has gotten to know many of the people who attend the Rally, and after coming to Sturgis for years, he feels like he knows everyone.

A familiar, colorful vehicle which can be seen driving the streets of Starkville playing light music was also present at the event.

Kona Ice driver Mike Shannon was in Sturgis selling chilled treats from his truck and admiring the collection of motorcycles passing by.

Walking into the park where live music takes place during the evening, attendees passed by a tent with hundreds of colorful bandanas hanging from the roof like cloth mobiles — many of them patriotic — tables with new helmets still in their boxes, and rows of pins, stickers, and sunglasses.

T.J. Shamon — known as "the Professor" by his biker friends — has attended the Rally for years, driving 400 miles from Sainte Genevieve, Missouri.

"I don't know any place the people are nicer and the police are friendlier," Shamon said. "A friend of ours was here and said, 'Professor, you need to be here.' I came and never left. I've been here every year."