How to Do Sturgis Vol. 3 – Answers to First Timer Questions About Anniversary Years

By Mary Panerio

In today’s world, the shelf life of just about everything has gotten shorter. Trends come and go quickly, and they apply to everything from the clothes you wear to the music on the radio, even the way you travel. So when you stumble upon something that has stood the test of time, it’s worth taking note

Few events in this world make it to an 80-year milestone, but it’s a patch the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is about to earn. The buzz leading up to this historic anniversary event has gotten the wheels turning for motorcycle enthusiasts around the world, causing countless people to wonder…

“Should this be the year we do Sturgis?”

Well, the short answer is YES. But if you’ve got questions about what it’s like to take in the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally during an anniversary year, you can find the answers here before you pull the trigger.

Why should I come during an anniversary year?

The collection of events and activities that together make up the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally get bigger and better with each passing year.

Make no mistake; the celebration is larger than life when it’s an anniversary year. Especially at destinations like the Sturgis Buffalo Chip®.

Venues Pull Out All the Stops

To celebrate reaching the next milestone, venues and event organizers go all in, booking big-name entertainment and organizing extraordinary spectacles.

During the rally’s 75th anniversary, Doug Danger succeeded in breaking a record that Evel Knievel® could never make by jumping 22 cars in the Buffalo Chip amphitheater on Knievel’s own vintage 1972 XR-750.

For the 80th anniversary in 2020, the Chip hopes to secure another exciting record by hosting the world’s largest group of women riders during the Women Riders Turnout.

It’s a Trophy Trip

If you’re not careful, it’s easy to stuff your life full of mundane moments and mediocre memories.

The truth is that only a handful of places in the world actually allow you the freedom to escape the repetition and responsibilities of day-to-day life, make a permanent mark on your soul and send you back to reality a changed person.

What years are the biggest?

There’s no good way to predict which years will have the largest turnout, but if history is any indication, people will flock to the event during these years:

  • 2020 – 80th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
  • 2021 – 40th anniversary of the Sturgis Buffalo Chip
  • 2025 – 85th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
  • 2030 – 90th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
  • 2031 – 50th anniversary of the Sturgis Buffalo Chip
  • 2035 – 95th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
  • 2040 – 100th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Check out predictions for the 100th rally anniversary here.

How much does attendance go up during an anniversary?

Determining rally attendance is complicated, to say the least. The final number is determined by a formula that takes into account stats including tons of garbage hauled, sales tax revenue and numbers taken from traffic counters.

No one would ever be able to forecast attendance for an anniversary with complete accuracy, but if you care to speculate about attendance for the coming 80th rally anniversary, here are some past attendance estimates:

  • 74th anniversary (2014) – 442,200
  • 75th anniversary (2015) – 739,000
  • 79th anniversary (2019) – 490,000

What kind of people will I meet?

Motorcycles have this magical way of bringing together people from all walks of life. Once you arrive at the rally, your job or status in the outside world is of little consequence. It doesn’t matter if you’re a plumber, a pilot, a dentist, or an artist. No matter what year it is, for these two weeks, you can just be a biker.

You’ll meet all walks of life during the rally, but the lure of a big anniversary year often draws people from greater distances and those who have never attended before.

How can I save time in traffic?

More people in the area can mean more traffic on the road. How much more depends, but according to South Dakota DOT, there was a 30.4% uptick in vehicles entering Sturgis between the official dates of the 74th and the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rallies.

Luckily, there are a few tips you can follow to make sure you don’t get stuck sitting on the hot asphalt.

Use the Shortcut

If you’re headed to the Sturgis Buffalo Chip® or any location on the east side of Sturgis, EXIT 37 IS A SHORTCUT FROM I-90!

This scenic byway constructed in 2016 provides a direct 5.6-mile shortcut from I-90 exit 37 to the front gate of the Chip, where you can head right into the campground or hop onto Hwys 35 and 79 to hit up other attractions.

To take the shortcut, take Exit 37 on I-90, then travel east onto Pleasant Valley Rd. (0.8 miles)

Turn north (left) onto Fort Meade Way. Travel to the Buffalo Chip. (4.8 miles)

Please note:
Fort Meade Way is a gravel road. It is treated with magnesium chloride in order to keep dust down and stay well packed.

Ride While Others Rest

It’s fun to be spontaneous, but sometimes a little pre-planning can go a long way. If you’re headed out to top riding destinations like Spearfish Canyon, Needles Highway, or Iron Mountain Road, the earlier you can leave, the better.

Being on the road by sunrise may seem like a challenge when there are so many tempting ways to stay out all night. But it’s worth it to experience the Black Hills in a way that most don’t.

Roads going in and out of some of the area’s most happening destinations like the Sturgis Buffalo Chip often are empty and quiet during the first hours of daylight.

Stay Someplace with Close Access to Amenities

If you’re on the vacation of a lifetime, the last thing you’ll want spend time on is a trip to the store to pick something up you forgot or to the Laundromat to wash your unmentionables.

So when you’re choosing a place to stay, make sure to take into consideration what amenities it has on site and how far you’d have to travel for any offsite.

If you’re staying at the Buffalo Chip, you’ll have piece of mind knowing you have access to just about every service and convenience you could want right on site.

You can grab small items you left at home at the General Store, get camping supplies at the Camp Store, fill up your tank at the Stop ‘n’ Fuel gas station, get your tires changed at the Buffalo Chip Garage and even get your clothes washed with their drop-off laundry service.

Check out the full list of Buffalo Chip amenities here.

Ride Responsibly When You Do Get Into Traffic

There’s no way to guarantee you’ll be able to avoid traffic all together during a Sturgis Rally anniversary, so you’ll always want to take necessary precautions to make sure you get to your destination in one piece.

Knowing your limits, staying alert, maintaining good spacing and having an escape plan can ensure that time spent in traffic doesn’t turn into time spent somewhere far less pleasant like the hospital.

Check out Tips and Tricks for Sharing a Busy Road for more suggestions on how to stay safe in traffic.

How can I avoid crowds and get the most out of my trip?

It could be easy to fill up your entire schedule just by hitting up the well-known destinations. Of course, places like Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Deadwood’s Historic Main Street, Cheyenne Crossing and others are well worth a stop, but because they are well known, you should expect that lots of other bikers will be there when you arrive.

If you’re looking to have a quieter day and fight fewer crowds, the Black Hils area is also full of amazing hidden gems you’ll want to discover.

Find Hidden Gems

Find more attractions a little off the beaten path by checking out 10 Hidden Gems of the Black Hills and Digging Deeper – 7 More Hidden Gems of the Black Hills.

Plan Your Accommodations Early

Regardless of how you spend your time, you’re going to need a place to stay, just like everyone else who attends the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Big anniversary year trips are often vacations rally-goers have considered for a while, which means prime spots get snatched up quickly after they’re made available.

Large rally venues start taking reservations over a year in advance, and although places like the Buffalo Chip have never run out of room, certain areas and amenities do sell out.

Coveted RV spots, VIP passes, camper rentals, cabins and other exclusive amenities at the Buffalo Chip are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If you’re hoping to reserve a special spot or one with some extra room, there’s no such thing as too soon.

Even if you’re just fine sleeping in a tent on the ground, it’s still a good idea to book well in advance, because the earlier you book, the cheaper it is.

Presale prices end incrementally throughout the year as bands are confirmed, so you’ll get the most bang for you buck by booking as soon as passes go on sale.

What if I have other questions?

This article is the third in the “How to Do Sturgis” series. There’s a good chance some of you other questions might be answered in one of the first two:

Shoot us additional questions in the comments below!

Presented by the Sturgis Buffalo Chip
Known as The Best Party Anywhere®, the Sturgis Buffalo Chip believes festivals should be fun like a high five, reenergize you like a broken rule, and romance you like someone you just met and have to take home.

This nine-day festival of concerts and motorcycle events promises to bring you exciting events like flat track races and live performances from artists like Aerosmith, Willie Nelson, Five Finger Death Punch, Kid Rock, Rob Zombie and many more.

Find out more or get passes to the Best Party Anywhere at and find out why it continues to be one of the most televised festivals in the world.