Officials with the city of Sturgis have announced there will be vendors and motorcycle shows in the Sturgis City Park during this year’s rally, a change that is upsetting some business owners and residents.
City officials say the city will host various events in the park, including AMA Supermoto racing, freestyle motocross, motorcycle stunt shows, motorcycle shows, family-friendly concerts and more.
Two business owners, Bob Davis of Sturgis Photo & Gifts and Rod Bradley of the Oasis Bar, criticized the decision. Both said the decision was made without any opportunity for residents to comment.
Following an executive session on Feb. 2, the Sturgis City Council voted to enter into a lease agreement with a promoter to create and manage a venue at the Sturgis City Park. City officials say that because the information involves a contract, they won’t release details.
They say the park activities are designed to enhance the experience of everyone visiting Sturgis during the 75th rally, scheduled for Aug. 1-8.
Davis said he was at the meeting, but left when the council went into its executive session. Then when he checked the minutes of the meeting, he realized the council had voted to use the park for rally events.
The council did not have that matter on the agenda, Davis said, so residents had no idea there would be action on it.
“A lot of people are not happy about it,” he said, adding that he knows of no organized opposition.
Davis said the park traditionally has served as a rally-free refuge for Sturgis residents.
The Sturgis City Park will host a variety of wholesome entertainment and daily family-friendly activities with the goal of attracting a younger demographic, said Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie.
“The council was very adamant with the promoter that it would be family-oriented, not what goes on east of town,” Ainslie said. “With that, the details have not been finalized. We will be going over what logistically would make sense.”
Since 1982, the park has been relatively quiet during the rally.
After years of dealing with increasingly rowdy bikers, the city that year capped the number of campers allowed to stay at the city park at 2,500 and increased rates to $4 per night from $2, causing many to stay elsewhere and call for a boycott of the park.
Campers were required to register, produce a license number and abide by the city’s no-visitors regulation. The park was divided into two sections to cut down on drag-racing and gain some control. But the efforts backfired.
Campers tore down gates, torched outhouses, threw rocks at city employees and used guns to threaten a backhoe operator. Sturgis Mayor Robert Voorhees ordered all employees out of the park.
Campers also tore out the speed bumps, burned a motorcycle and chopped down two trees. Months later, the city issued several orders designed to control bikers further, including closing the city park to camping. Angry residents circulated a petition to end the rally. That November, by a vote of 846-758, voters elected to keep the rally, but in a much different form.
So, having vendors, concerts and other events return to the city park is a delicate issue with many residents.
Dave Wilson, a Sturgis resident whose daughter is a soccer player, said the city has crossed the line allowing vendors in the park.
“Our kids go down there during the rally and practice soccer,” he said. “We have a very nice park. Leave it alone. It’s there for the citizens.”
Bradley, who grew up in Sturgis, said he is “fully aware of how sensitive the issue of the city park is with all the citizens of Sturgis.”
He said he is not in favor of opening the park to rally events. “How could you be for it if it hasn’t been explained (by city officials)?” he said. “”The details haven’t been presented or discussed.”
The city sought no public comment on that use of the park, Bradley said.
In addition to entertainment, new industry-related companies will showcase their latest products in the park, which will be of interest to veteran rally attendees, the city said in news release.
These exhibitors and sponsors will range from Fortune 500 companies and larger consumer product brands to smaller motorcycle parts, accessory and apparel brands that have never before attended the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Limited camping will be provided for support staff, racers and entertainers.
Ainslie said in the coming weeks, more information on exhibiting and sponsorship opportunities will be released as well as dates and times for the racing and entertainment at the park.
He added that the expansion to the city park is a way of bringing in different events and a way to return money back to the community.
“Frankly, this is something the council is trying for a year,” Ainslie said. “It’s not something that might happen again in the future. If it doesn’t turn out well, there is no desire on the part of the council for it to continue on.”
Original Article available at: Rapid City Journal
Deb Holland Meade County Times-Tribune staff