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The rally shifts into a higher gear: First-time rally vendors prep for rally week

Published in General News

Those attending the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this year will be able to have a new perspective on the downtown and the Black Hills from an over 100-foot observation wheel.

Rally and Events Director Jerry Cole said this is the first year the rally will have the wheel, which is somewhat replacing the traditional photo towers in order to prevent mass gatherings.

The wheel comes as part of the Ray Cammack Shows, which celebrates 59 years of family-owned and operated business and has ties to South Dakota.

People in Downtown Sturgis Gear Up for Rally

Visitors gather in downtown Sturgis before the rally officially starts Friday.

People in Downtown Sturgis Gear Up for Rally

Employee Kelly Knight sanitizes a carnival ride at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Observation wheel

An employee with Ray Cammack Shows power washes an umbrella in preparation of opening rides Wednesday. RCS will host a 108-foot observation wheel for the first time as part of the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

People in Downtown Sturgis Gear Up for Rally

Jesse Lopez of Pismo Beach, California, orders a meal at Giovanni Homemade Sausage Sandwiches, a rally vendor.

Giovanni Homemade Sausage Sandwiches

Casey Kelley (from left), Giovanni Vitale, Anthony Gennetta, Josepe Vitale and Jesus Carbajal, all family members, pose for a portrait at the Giovanni Homemade Sausage Sandwiches booth in downtown Sturgis. 30% of the rally’s vendors this year are new. 

People in Downtown Sturgis Gear Up for Rally

Jonas Williams of Greensboro, North Carolina, stands in his booth in downtown Sturgis where he sells Trump merchandise.

People in Downtown Sturgis Gear Up for Rally

Mike Bazicki of Troy, New York, looks on as vendor Teo Schizas of RM Leathers customizes a leather jacket.

People in Downtown Sturgis Gear Up for Rally

Ray Mersch and Gabby McDermott, both of Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, walk through downtown Sturgis on Wednesday. Mersch has been attending the Sturgis Rally since 2001.

Spokesperson Chris Lopez said the chief finance officer is from South Dakota and one of the families that works for them lives in Sturgis and Rapid City.

“What a great opportunity to come back and do something like that,” Lopez said.

RCS is based out of Phoenix and typically works at events in southern California, Arizona and Texas. Lopez said due to the pandemic, some of the company’s regular shows were postponed, which gave them the chance to come to the rally.

RCS is bringing rides, food stands and carnival games to the rally.

On June 15, the City Council voted to move forward with the rally after councilors decided to cancel large crowd events like the opening ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic.

City Manager Daniel Ainslie said one reason the council voted to move forward with the rally was so the city could impose public health guidelines on vendors.

Ainslie said that the city worked with the Department of Health on the regulations, which includes recommending that vendors wear personal protection equipment like masks; requiring heightened sanitization of restrooms and high-touch surfaces; having hand sanitizer readily available for customers and employees; having a designated entry point; and a recommendation of a 50% occupancy maximum.

Some vendors like Giovannino Vitale, owner of Don Giovanni’s Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches, are taking the guidelines seriously.

“We do everything, sanitation, masks,” he said. “I recommend everybody should do that.”

Vitale is one of the about 30% of first-time rally vendors, which Ainslie said is a historically high number.

According to KOTA, there are about 330 vendors so far, which includes food vendors, tattoo licenses, temporary business licenses, t-shirts and ATM licensing. Last year, the city issued permits to 633 vendors for the rally.

Vitale said he’s attended the rally every year since 1972, but this is his first year as a vendor.

“I was always going to do it, but this year I have my son, my cousins,” he said. “That why I’m here. All of my family members (are together).”

Vitale and his family — Casey Kelley, Anthony Gennetta, Josepe Vitale and Jesus Carbajal — made the trip from Denver to Sturgis. Carbajal and Josepe said they’re glad to be in Sturgis since Colorado has tight restrictions due to the pandemic.

Vitale, who grew up in Napoli, Italy, said the sausage they make is his grandmother’s recipe, which he doesn’t give to anyone.

“From a 1 to 10 (scale), it’s a 10,” he said. “A lot of people, they don’t know about this sausage, but it’s one of the best sausages in the world.”

Jonas Williams of Greensboro, North Carolina, said he originally came to South Dakota with the Trump Train for President Donald Trump’s July 3 visit to Mount Rushmore.

When he heard the motorcycle rally was around the corner, he had to stay. Now, he’s falling in love with the state and the people.

“It’s like I’m away from the rest of the world,” he said. “I don’t want to go back to North Carolina to tell you the truth, and I’ve heard from a lot of people that came from Minneapolis, Portland, from all over, and they just want to get away. This is the place where everybody’s thinking about coming to retire and different things of that nature.”

Williams said he bought a camper to stay in during his time here and is not concerned about the pandemic.

Elizabeth Hiedeman, who is working at the outdoor tent for The Knuckle and has been part of the rally for four years, said she’s not concerned about the virus either. Tanner Lamphere, who’s been part of the rally for six years and has Type II diabetes, said he’s not that worried about the virus but is still taking precautions like wearing a mask.

Hiedeman said The Knuckle’s tent will be using sanitizer water, although that’s not out of the ordinary, and keeping things “wiped up and covered up.”

She said the slow crawl of patrons is pretty typical pre-rally and picks up in the evenings. She said it’ll get full bore from 10 until closing during rally week, although this year they won’t be open until 3 a.m. and will instead close around 10 or 11 p.m.

“I think there’s not enough business to keep us open (until 3 a.m.),” she said.

Mike and Yvonne Bazicki from Troy, New York, who drove 32 hours to come to the rally for the first time, said they’re a little concerned about the virus and typically wear their masks.

“We’ve been meaning to come for a long time,” Mike said. “We’ve been working from home, so honestly we just had the time to do it this year.”

The Bazickis said they plan on staying throughout the duration of the rally, but got their shopping out of the way on Wednesday and plan to drive around to Mount Rushmore, Needles Highway and other attractions throughout the week.

They said when they get back, they’ll have to quarantine for two weeks or face fines.

Cole said there were more people before the rally start date than in a regular year, although there’s not as many people that would’ve been in town if it weren’t for the virus.

“You would’ve seen probably triple the amount of people already if it hadn’t been for the virus (since it’s the 80th),” he said.

The virus is also keeping some companies and vendors away from the rally, like Harley-Davidson, a long-time sponsor.

“We are carefully considering our participation in events from June 1 and beyond, taking into consideration directives from local authorities and CDC/WHO guidance,” the website states.

The rally begins Friday and will last through Aug. 16.

Rally events

Aug. 7

3 p.m. — Mayor Mark Carstensen to read rally proclamation, view online

5:30 p.m. — Brandon Jones at Loud American Roadhouse

6 p.m. — Union Gray at Knuckle Saloon and Brewery

7 p.m. — Xtreme Flat Track at the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

10:30 p.m. — Otherwise at the Iron Horse Saloon

10:30 p.m. — Molly Hatchet at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

Aug. 8

1:30 p.m. — Beers and Burps Contest at Bikini Beach at the Buffalo Chip

2 p.m. — Motorcycles as Art at the event center at the Buffalo Chip

7 p.m. — Xtreme Flat Track at the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

7 p.m. — Adelitas way at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

10:30 p.m. — Chancey Williams at the Iron Horse Saloon

10:30 p.m. — The Guess Who at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

Aug. 9

8:30 a.m. — Medicine Wheel Ride, awareness and memorial ride for Indigenous Women

10 a.m. — Motocross

7:05 p.m. — Trapt at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

9 p.m. — TANTRIC at the Kickstand Campground

10:30 p.m. — Fozzy at the Iron Horse Saloon

10:30 p.m. — Smash Mouth at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

Aug. 10

9 a.m. — 18th annual Mayor’s Ride with Sturgis Mayor Mark Carstensen

10 a.m. — Pro Hill Climb at the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

10:30 a.m. — Legends Ride

7 p.m. — Xtreme Flat Track at the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

7:05 p.m. — Saving Abel at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

9 p.m. — Creed Fisher at the Kickstand Campground

10:30 p.m. — Whitey Morgan  at the Iron Horse Saloon

10:30 p.m. — Night Ranger at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

Aug. 11

9 a.m. — Biker Belles The Morning Ride

10 a.m. — Pro Verta-X at the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

Noon — Street Drag Invitiational with Crazy John at the Buffalo Chip Amphitheater

7 p.m. — Saving Abel at the Kickstand Campground

9 p.m. — Creed Fisher at the Kickstand Campground

10:30 p.m. — Hairball  at the Iron Horse Saloon

10:30 p.m. — Buckcherry at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

Aug. 12 

7 p.m. — Verta-X at the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

7:05 p.m. — LIT at at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

10:30 p.m. — Hairball  at the Iron Horse Saloon

10:30 p.m.  — Drowning Pool at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

Aug. 13

10 a.m.  Gypsie Road Tour at the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

7:05 p.m. — Blue Frog Band at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

8 p.m. — Saul at the Iron Horse Saloon

9 p.m. — Whey Jennings at the Kickstand Campground

10:30 p.m. — 38 Special at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

Aug. 14

10 a.m. — Amateur Hill Climb at the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

7 p.m. — Flat Track (Bikes, Mini Sprints, Go-Karts at the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

7:05 p.m. — Blacklite District at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

8 p.m. — Saul at the Iron Horse Saloon

9 p.m. — Tim Zach & Whiskey Bent at the Kickstand Campground

10:30 p.m. — Quiet Riot at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

10:30 p.m. — Hinder at the Iron Horse Saloon

Aug. 15

9 a.m. — Hare Scramble for A Class at the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

Noon — Hare Scramble all classes at the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

8 p.m. — Denham at the Iron Horse Saloon

9 p.m. — Tim Zach & Whiskey Bent at the Kickstand Campground

10:30 p.m. — Reverend Horton Heat at the Wolfman Jack Stage at the Buffalo Chip

10:30 p.m. — Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Location: South Dakota
Source: rapidcityjournal.com
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