Preparations in full swing for Sturgis Motorcycle Rally; officials also looking ahead to 75th

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STURGIS, South Dakota — As officials wrap up preparations for this year's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota's Black Hills, many also are looking forward to next year's 75th Diamond Jubilee.

"A lot of the comments we do see on our social media site are: 'Can't wait for the 75th.' That's the chat," Sturgis Rally Director Brenda Vasknetz told the Rapid City Journal.

This year's rally starts Monday, and motorcycle enthusiasts have been flocking to Sturgis this week. The state Highway Patrol issued a statement urging bikers and motorists to "share the road." Last year six fatalities were recorded in the Rapid City district during the rally.

Office of Highway Safety statistics show that about one-third of motorcycle fatalities in the state each year occur in western counties during a two-week period around the annual rally.

"Summer always brings heavier traffic, and the rally means thousands more motorcycles traveling the highways in our state," Lee Axdahl, director of the office, said in statement. "If everyone pays attention and makes safe choices, bikers, tourists and everyone else on the highways can have a good and safe time."

Florida biker James Bakalich told KELO-TV that he arrived more than a week before the rally "so I can see the whole thing unfold. How it comes together is amazing.

"I always like to be the first one in and the last one out," Bakalich said.

Reservations and visitor inquiries indicate attendance at this year rally, which runs through Aug. 10, might match last year's event, which drew more than 467,000 people. Some officials estimate that next year's 75th annual rally might draw close to a million people.

"I know we can handle it," Vasknetz said.

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