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Sturgis rally attendance up 5.1 percent as numbers increase

It's a massive show of motorcycles on Main Street in Sturgis on Thursday, Aug. 9. Attendance has been increasing from last year every day this year. Submitted photo1 / 6
A woman stands by her motorcycle draped with an American flag at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Military Appreciation Day. Submitted photo2 / 6
This "bat" motorcycle was just one of the many creative bikes found at this year's Sturgis rally. Submitted photo3 / 6
Food is a major seller at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and vendor numbers are up this year. Here, a vendor sells food on Main Street. Submitted photo4 / 6
A motorcyclist shops for souvenirs in downtown Sturgis, S.D., at the rally on Thursday, Aug. 9. Submitted photo5 / 6
Competitors work on their creations in the "Burger Battle," a new event at this year's rally. The winner will advance to a national competition. Submitted photos6 / 6

STURGIS, S.D.— The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota had its biggest day of the nine-day event on Wednesday, Aug. 8, as 60,608 people entered the event.

The South Dakota Department of Transportation, which installs counters on roadways entering the usually small town tucked in the hills, said that the number for the day was an increase of 11.4 percent from the year before.

So far, through six days, the attendance at the 78th annual event is listed at 342,016, up by 5.1 percent from last year.

Visitors have been steadily climbing since Monday, although numbers are still a far cry from the 75th anniversary when almost 800,000 people attended.

Christina Steele, public information officer for Sturgis, said she's been seeing "lots of creative bikes and people" at this year's event, including an increase in trikes.

She credited digital advertising to help draw in more visitors.

"Additionally, the economy is good so people are willing to travel," she said. "I would expect attendance to continue upwards through the 80th (anniversary event)."

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In a reflection of the higher number of visitors, Steele said total vendor numbers are at 646, which is already higher than last year.

Vendors include taxis, food sellers, clothing and souvenir outlets and tattoo artists, to name a few.

Sturgis officials even count garbage in helping to determine the number of visitors. So far collections of garbage are about even with 2017, but 7.8 percent higher than in 2016.

One of the new events is helping to draw in more people, too, Steele said, referring to the "Burger Battle." In the event held downtown, where most of the activities and vendors are found, four teams compete each day with one team advancing to the finals coming up Friday.

The winner for the best-tasting burger will advance to a national competition.

On the downside, the rally organizers said parking remains the No. 1 problem for police.

"If you aren't sure about a parking space, you probably shouldn't park there," said Steele.

The rally also saw its fourth fatality, matching last year's total at this point in the event.

The fatal crash occurred Wednesday night about 6:30 p.m., one mile west of nearby Blackhawk on Sturgis Road when a motorcyclist filed to negotiate a curve in the roadway. The driver, a 39-year-old man, went off the roadway, into the ditch, down an embankment and through a fence. He was pronounced dead at the scene and was not wearing a helmet, said the Department of Public Safety.

There were also two serious injury accidents on Wednesday where motorcyclists hit deer.

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