By Sarah Pridgeon
With 2015 marking the 75th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and over one million visitors anticipated, Chuck Ruiz of Deluxe Harley Davidson has suggested that the City of Sundance begin its preparations. In response, the council has opted to form an action team to plan for the expected influx of riders, with the help of all interested or affected parties.
“One of my hands is a South Dakota State Trooper and he is now also a member of the South Dakota Emergency Preparedness Board. He told us they are estimating that, for the 75th rally, there will be a million to 1.2 million people,” Ruiz told the council, offering his support for the preparations.
“The 50th, which is considered by most to be the biggest rally, was just attended by 750,000, so we’re talking at least 25 percent more. I believe that we should prepare for it, I also think it’s important that the merchants and city are all on the same page with what we want to happen.”
How many of those visitors come to Sundance is something that the city has control over through level of advertising, he added. Beginning preparations now would allow the city to anticipate the needs of the visitors it would like to welcome and how best to meet them.
“I’ll advertise and come up with stuff to do and I’ll bring lots of riders to town – if you want me to,” said Ruiz.
“Some of it we won’t be able to control – they’ll come, but my experience has been that where the facilities are not enough to provide the things a crowd needs, they start getting angry. We should be prepared to the point of being able to take care of them.”
Ruiz will invite the world to town, he said, but only if that’s what the city wants.
“I’m interested in… how much we would like to take advantage of it. It’s only going to continue, the rally has become a pilgrimage and it’s not going to go away,” he explained.
“We’re going to have half a million every year and there will be boomer years where we’ll have more.”
Ruiz requested that the council collectively consider how it would like to approach the event. Something good can be made of it for the whole community, he said, but he will need to begin networking with other businesses and helping them prepare.
Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Lenz suggested forming an action team comprised of the city, Police Chief Todd Fritz and affected business owners. Planning together would create a more cohesive event, she said.
Attracting vendors could turn the event into a street fair, for example. Fritz suggested that parking for many motorcycles is always a big consideration.
This year, said Ruiz, he is hoping to prepare the piece of property between his store and the pharmacy, pouring a slab and dressing it up. This could, for the 75th Rally, become a vendor’s alley.
“In my opinion, it’s going to happen with or without us,” said Mayor Paul Brooks, suggesting a monthly sit-down meeting where everyone could brief each other on what was happening.
“The good news is that we have more than a year,” said Ruiz, pledging to begin gathering information and ideas.
“I think we can do it safely.”
Ruiz also requested that the council consider passing a proclamation declaring that the City of Sundance is a motorcycle-friendly community. He would share this with his customers all the time, he said.
“I would also tell them I’m not suggesting they can come and have a 1950s rally here or not mind their manners, we have very strong western ideals and ethics and this is people’s home,” Ruiz added.
“I want good manners, I was brought up that way, but tough guys are always gentlemen.”
Ruiz will meet with Fritz and Lenz shortly to begin arrangements for the action team.