2018 Sturgis Rally Kicks off with Larger, Tamer Crowd

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2018 Sturgis Rally

First three days of the 2018 Sturgis Rally bring a surge in attendance. But have things changed for the better, or worse?

Many thought that the wildly popular Sturgis Motorcycle Rally had peaked. But in reality, attendance at the annual event has largely followed the ebbs and flows of the economy over the years. Things were looking rather bleak just a couple of years ago, when attendance sunk from a record 739,000 people in 2015 to just 415,000 in 2016. But last year saw a healthy increase to 480,000. And with the first couple of days of the 2018 Sturgis Rally in the books, it’s looking like this year will be even better.

According to the Argus Leader, the South Dakota State Transportation Department is estimating a 3-percent increase in traffic over the first three days of the rally, which started Friday, August 3. Saturday was even busier, with an 11-percent jump in traffic. Preliminary estimates peg total attendance at 500,000 this year, which would be a nice increase. And that’s obviously good news for a tiny Sturgis town that relies heavily on the world’s largest motorcycle rally to spur its economy.

2018 Sturgis Rally

But as you might imagine, cramming more people in an already crowded town does come with some downsides. Despite the fact that most 2018 Sturgis Rally attendees are law-abiding professionals, there are inevitably going to be some drug arrests, accidents, and other various shenanigans going on. “Oh my gosh. It’s cool. Crazy. Wild,” first-time visitor Diana Voakes told USA Today. “I’m here to see everything that Sturgis stands for.”

But on the flip side, many seemed disappointed at the lack of drunks, nudity, and rowdy crowds that used to line the streets of Sturgis. “It’s all commercial now. A human zoo,” said Keith Eccles, a pinstriping and airbrush painter who’s been attending the rally since 1978. “It’s so totally different.”

2018 Sturgis Rally

Whether or not that newfound tameness is necessarily a bad thing is up for debate. But judging by the ever-growing crowd, people don’t seem to mind too much.

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Brett Foote is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including Chevrolet Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts.

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