Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Uncertainty plagues city rally plans


July 16, 2020

It’s still impossible to guess how the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will go this year, which makes it tough for the City of Sundance to begin its preliminary planning. Discussion was held at last week’s council meeting about the measures that could be taken to keep COVID-19 at bay during the busiest week of the local tourist season.

“Sturgis City Council did not cancel the rally in Sturgis,” confirmed Police Chief Marty Noonan. On hearing this news, he said, the police department was represented at a meeting arranged by Emergency Management Coordinator Ed Robinson to begin planning the local response.

Noonan asked whether the city wants to start thinking about any precautions that should be taken in light of the public health issue. However, it’s still not possible to predict how many people will turn up for the annual event, he said.

It has always been assumed that there would be some traffic coming through even had the event been cancelled, Noonan said, but there’s no way to tell whether there will be more visitors, fewer or the number originally predicted.

“We don’t know what the governor’s orders are going to be by then either,” he said.

Mayor Paul Brooks shared his own experience of seeing empty parking lots at motels in the region, which is unusual this far into tourist season. He felt that many people might be wary enough of the coronavirus to avoid the event, but on the other hand, “I would also say I think there’s a lot of people sitting on the sidelines to decide,” he said.

Council Member Callie Hilty noted that, over recent weeks, “People are traveling because they’re sick of being at home.”

Clerk Treasurer Kathy Lenz asked if the city is officially required to take any pandemic-related precautions.

“Based on the governor’s orders now, I don’t think so, because you’re not sponsoring the event,” said Noonan.

Lenz suggested that a couple of handwashing stations could be rented along with the portapotties that the city has funded during rally for the last few years.

“That wouldn’t be too expensive for the city to do,” she said.

Brooks brought up as a point of discussion the question of whether, as an alternative, the city should require anyone seeking a vendor permit to provide hygiene facilities to “get the city out from under the expense of it”. Noonan confirmed that it was suggested at the rally meeting to require vendors to take such precautions.

“We’re in uncharted water,” said Brooks, stating that he is unsure whether it would be fair to do this. Lenz noted, however, that a little charting has in fact been done because thanks to the recent art show on Main Street.

“It wasn’t us, it was the people that were sponsoring it. I asked them to come up with how they were going to handle it and each vendor had to [explain] what they were going to do to sanitize,” said Lenz.

Lenz informed the council that the city has received a $2000 grant for handling events during the pandemic, which has been used to acquire hand sanitizer. There’s plenty available, she said, and it would therefore be possible to provide it to the vendors.

The question of law enforcement during rally week was also raised.

“I’m not sure we want to expose our manpower…walking through a disease that spreads airborne,” said Brooks. “It may end up being a little more of a ‘police yourself’ year, I don’t want to put you guys in jeopardy.”

The council agreed that it’s still too soon to be certain whether the usual celebrations will be possible, what precautions will be necessary and how many people will turn up. Decisions will therefore be considered at the August meeting of the council.


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