Some 800,000 people are expected to attend the 70th edition of the weeklong annual Sturgis Bike Rally in Sturgis, S.D., a high profile national event that kicked off Monday (Aug. 9). And Forest River Inc. representatives are in the thick of it — showcasing some of the Elkhart, Ind.-based towable and motorized RVs.
”We have been so busy with customers (in Sturgis) that it was a chore to even get the display set up,” said Curt Smith, general manager of Forest River’s Work and Plan toy hauler division.
Smith set up shop on Sturgis’ downtown Main Street along with representatives from Forest River’s Puma and Cherokee towable and Coachmen motorized divisions. ”We are right in the heart of it all,” Smith said.
The crowd of motorcyclists totally overwhelms the city of Sturgis, which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has a total of 5,950 year-round residents and is expected to almost equal South Dakota’s total population of just over 813,000.
”It’s like doubling the population of the state for a week,” said Smith.
Before Bike Week even started, Smith told RVBUSINESS.com, Forest River representatives had sold a dozen units in the days leading up to the event. ”The checks are in the pocket and there are seven or eight pending,” he said. Last year, Forest River sold 38 units during Bike Week.
The rally began in 1938 as an event sponsored by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club as a venue for racing and stunts and has continued ever since with a two-year interruption during World War II.
Bike Week has continued to grow, and this year more than 200,000 people showed up even before the event started.
Top line entertainment this year is being provided by Bob Dylan, Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue and ZZ Top, while as many as 700 vendors have set up shop in the Black Hills community.
The entertainment lineup ”is the biggest and best so far,” Rod Woodruff, owner of Buffalo Chip Campground, which has hosted concerts for 29 years, told the Associated Press.
”Anybody who has anything at all to do with motorcycles thinks this is the place,” said Christine Paige Dires, executive director of the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame.
Sturgis aside, Smith says that Work and Play sales ”are very much up from last year.”
”Everybody is very pleased with what’s going on for the year, but people are still very cautious,” he said, adding that Work and Play’s most serious problem right now is finding qualified employees to build RVs. ”That’s the part that’s weird,” he said. ”We are having trouble finding good employees. I think the government has made unemployment too appealing. Right now, people are making darn good money just sitting on their butts.”