RALLY READY: Sturgis preps for 2018 motorcycle event


A scene from 2017 Rally in Sturgis, which saw scores of bikes descend on the small town for the annual event (file photo)

By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
SDN Editor

Hundreds, if not thousands, of motorcycles will rumble through the otherwise quiet small town of Sturgis in the coming days and local officials say the annual Rally is primed for another big turnout. 

The Rally event, which is the 19th all-motorcycle rally in the town’s history, will officially kick off on Friday, Aug. 17, but the park gates will open at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11 for early campers. Turnout for the 2017 Rally was viewed as successful and Sturgis leaders hope to see sustained growth this year, after the event was revived in 2014. 

“All the campers that have reserved their RV sites in the park will come in this Saturday morning,” Sturgis Mayor Billy Blankenship said. “They will be coming in all through the week to set up.”

Blankenship said vendors will also show up through the week to begin setting up in different areas. 

The city already has a list of some vendors that have prepaid the $75 permit fee, but other vendors who are regulars to the Rally will come later, after setting up deals with landowners to secure their spots. 

The vendor fees paid to the town clerk will help drive revenue for the Rally Board to keep holding the annual motorcycle rally, along with other efforts such as T-shirt sales, according to Blankenship. 

Arm bands will be sold for $20 each to get into the motorcycle show and live entertainment will also be provided, including local and well-known acts, such as 90s country music stars Confederate Railroad, who served as a backing band for the likes of David Allan Coe and Johnny Paycheck, before setting out on their own and releasing six studio albums and a slew of singles. 

“To put on a motorcycle rally is pretty expensive,” Blankenship said, encouraging all in the surrounding areas to visit the Rally. “We are well in excess of $25,000 to $30,000 and that’s just for the music.” 

Earlier this year, when the Rally contract was being discussed by Blankenship and the Sturgis Board of Aldermen, it was said over the last three or four years that the event has cost the town roughly $15,000 to $16,000, with the biggest portion being spent on security. 

The Starkville Daily News previously reported that sanitation alone for the event can come with a price tag of around $2,500. 

Blankenship told the Starkville Daily News on Monday that between 5,000 and 10,000 attendees would make for a successful rally. 

WHAT TO EXPECT AND WHAT HAS CHANGED

While it’s not the big Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that will see a half-million bikers descend this week on the world-famous South Dakota city, organizers of the Mississippi event are banking on a strong turnout after a good showing last year. 

Thursday, Aug. 16 will see some entertainment at the pavilion in the city’s park, with local band Third Generation serving as the musical kickoff. 

Blankenship said the move-in this year is expected to be smaller than in year’s past, which makes the process more simple and will have no impact on traffic as Highway 12 runs right through downtown Sturgis. 
The City Park will feature about 40 RV sites, which have already been rented out. 

“(The RV campers) are in no rush to get into the park because their spots are secure, so most of the people we have lined up on Friday and Saturday to come in, they want to get that particular place in the outfield that they want to be, by their shade tree,” Blankenship laughed. 

The city will use Montgomery Street for the line-up for RVs, and Blankenship said it will be free-flowing and not have much, if any, impact on those coming and going on foot through the park or downtown. 

Per event rules, no vehicles or RVs will be allowed in or out of the City Park one hour prior to the performances on Friday and Saturday night. Only motorcycle and foot traffic will be allowed until performances are over. 

Additionally, no glass will be allowed in the City Park, roping off of campsites will be prohibited and all unauthorized four-wheelers or golf carts will be banned. 

The City Park will officially open at 8 a.m. on Friday and line-up for the Dinner Ride will begin on Main Street in Sturgis at 3:30 p.m., but bikers hit the road at 4 p.m. to roll into Starkville.  

A program and announcements will be made at the Sturgis City Park at 7:30 p.m., which will be followed by music from T.J. Burnham and Miles Flatt, beginning at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively. 

Lights out will be at midnight on both Friday and Saturday during the event. 

Saturday will feature two events in tandem beginning at 9 a.m., a Dice/Poker Run and the Bike Show. 

One contest Blankenship said the Rally Board hopes to see this year is a motorcycle sound contest, which he said could bring in some interesting and high-profile competitors. 

“In our last Rally Board meeting, Board Member George Jones said we have always done our bike show inside the ball field on the grass and said ‘I don’t know if we can do it this year, because I’m getting some feedback that some of these motorcycles coming in for sound show and bike show, they are in excess of $100,000 motorcycles, so I don’t know if they will park them on grass.’”

Blankenship said the town will do whatever it has to do to accommodate. 

“If we can get a lot of contestants like that, then super,” Blankenship said. “Maybe if folks know about that they will buy an armband and come see.” 

The Mid-Mississippi Sound-Off Competition will begin at 11 a.m. and details and rules are available online. The sound competition will wrap up at 1 p.m. with awards presented. 

The sound competition will then be followed by more awards at 1:30 p.m. and a program in City Park at 7:30 p.m. 

Lovin’ Ledbetter will take the stage at 8 p.m. and Confederate Railroad will end the night with a concert beginning at 10 p.m. 

Sunday will see the close of the Rally with a “Blessing of the Bikes” at 9 a.m.

Blankenship encouraged those who may be on the fence about purchasing armbands to consider it “a donation.” 

“In the past there has been a slogan, ‘Friends of the Rally,’ and that slogan was created to try to raise awareness that by buying an armband, you are a friend of the Rally because you are helping to support the Rally Board to support this event.” 

STARKVILLE’S ROLE 

While the Dinner Ride itself will follow the exact same route as last year, a change has been made that will see the bikers stop in Starkville’s Fire Station Park for a dinner catered by The Little Dooey. 

Blankenship then praised the contributions of Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill and Partnership Interim CEO Jennifer Prather.

“Starkville wanted to get more involved in the rally and they loved the thought that we came down Main Street last year,” he said. “They liked that, so we decided we do it this year … we felt like it was a good change, too.”

Spruill also expressed her excitement for the changes in this year’s installment of the Rally. Last year saw the bikers ride through the city’s Main Street for the first time.

In years past, riders would travel the entirety of Highway 12 through Starkville during the Dinner Ride, but due to the city’s growth and high volume of traffic, a change was made to be more accommodating. 

“I love the bike rally coming through and I’m really delighted that it’s going to be in our Fire Station Park,” Spruill said. “They won’t just be passing through now, they are going to be staying around for awhile and we’re going to feed them and enjoy the opportunity to see the bikes and maybe if you can’t get out to Sturgis, this gives you an opportunity to see these amazing bikes in Starkville.” 

Prather echoed Spruill’s gratitude for Starkville playing a role in the rally and said she hopes it presents a great opportunity for bikers to visit the city’s many great restaurants and sites, such as the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library and Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana at Mississippi State’s Mitchell Memorial Library, which opened last November. 

“The success of the Sturgis Rally has always been a great impact on our community, the Partnership and city is thrilled with its recent rebirth and we’re excited to play a part in welcoming them to our community and hope they will find time to enjoy the assets that we have while here,” she said.

“We expect a good turnout this year from what I’ve heard,” Blankenship said. “Motorcycle sales have increased at our local store in Starkville (Village Cycle Center), they have seen an increase in sales. I’ve seen good responses from the Sturgis event page and how many people are seeing it and how nay people are liking and sharing it.” 

For more information on the Rally, visit the event’s website at www.msrally.com. or on Facebook at Sturgis, MS Events. Those interested can also call (662)-341-0115. 
 

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