Safety remains priority as Rally closes

Motorcycles line the streets of Sturgis at The Rally Saturday. More than 1,400 bikes were counted Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)
Staff Writer

As the Rally in Sturgis, Mississippi took place Saturday, many riders came to the community from across the South and beyond.

With high temperatures forecast and a large number of attendees, safety was of paramount importance for those making the rally possible.

This year, rally officials counted more than 1,400 motorcycles along Highway 12 Saturday. Despite the large influx of people the rally brings to Sturgis, the event was even bigger before it went dormant from 2011 to 2013.

Even with the smaller number of participants, security is a considerable effort for the Sturgis Police Department and other agencies.

“A lot of work goes into it,” said Sturgis Police Chief Greg Hamilton. “We’ll have probably 5,000, 6,000 or 7,000 people come through Strugis during the rally.”

Hamilton told the SDN the rally had been peaceful so far.

“In the three years that I’ve done the rally, we might have arrested three or four people at the most,” Hamilton said.

He said no arrests had been made as of Saturday afternoon.

With thousands descending on the small hamlet in rural Oktibbeha County, Hamilton had to hire 15 outside security personnel in addition to his police officers and 12 courtesy officers.

“They ride the streets and park during the rally, and when they’re having the concert, they’ll be out there mingling in the crowd to make sure that everybody’s acting right,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton became chief in 2013, one year before the rally was reinstated.

Motorcycle troopers from the Mississippi Highway Patrol are also involved with the rally, leading the dinner and lunch rides on Friday and Saturday.

Sturgis native Hayden Gillis had attended the rally for most of his life also said the rally had shrunk from its pre-hiatus size. However, he said the event was not unlike the pre-hiatus rallies in other respects.

“As far as how it’s run and what goes on, it seems to be just like old times,” Gillis said.

Gillis said he started coming to the rally due to living nearby.

“I couldn’t miss it,” Gillis said.

Mike Gooch of Winona said he remembered how large the rally was in the years leading up to 2011.

“You couldn’t get a bike parked on this side here, it was just a steady stream,” Gooch said.

Gooch said he thought the reinstated rally would grow back to its original size over time.

Little Texas and Black Water Trio performed Saturday night, and the rally will end at 9 a.m. Sunday with a blessing of the bikes held by the Christian Motorcyclists Association.