Minnesota bikers say they're still making Sturgis trip but willing to take COVID-19 precautions

(FOX 9)

There’s not much that will keep Larry Kennelly from the Sturgis rally.

"The last time I missed was in '08," says Kennelly.

And he isn’t going to let a pandemic stop him this year.

"I’m not going to miss it and neither are the guys I ride with," he said. "They’re not going to miss it either."

They’re not alone: Motorcycle sales and service at the Crow River Harley Davidson, where Kennelly works, haven’t stopped.

"People have been buying bikes for Sturgis, trading in their old one getting a new one, getting ready to go out," he explained.

"When you’re riding, there’s no thoughts about COVID, it’s just out riding and being free," added Crow River Harley Davidson service manager Nate Rothstein.

While the Harley shop and service center in Delano has been extra busy, it’s likely not as many riders will be heading west this year. Sturgis rally organizers tell us that the rally will look different this year, and they’re expecting fewer people.

Crowds that got close to half a million people last year, will be lucky to get close to 300,000, according to organizers. They’ve also had to cancel all downtown Sturgis events, like opening ceremonies, parades and live music. Concerts at campgrounds outside city limits are expected to go on.

Those on the ground already in South Dakota tell us there are some signs things are different.

"Everybody is being conscientious, all the vendors, all the stores are suggesting the six-foot distancing," said motorcyclist Dave Kane. "They’re asking people to wear masks but it becomes an individual choice."

But most people are enjoying the ride in smaller groups.

"The COVID pandemic is really the last consideration I’d say for pretty much anyone out here," said Kane.

Before he heads out on Friday, Kennelly says he’ll be packing face coverings.

"I got them in my saddlebags, I got them everywhere," he said.

"If I have to wear a mask at certain things I will, wash your hands, just be smart," he added.