August 19, 2010 9:39:00 AM
Tim Pratt -
STURGIS -- Gray clouds hung over Sturgis most of the day Wednesday, but the mud and the rain did little to dampen the mood in this town of less than 300 people as residents and vendors prepared for the Sturgis South All-Bike Motorcycle Rally.
Rain-soaked vendors, ready to sell T-shirts, food and other items, set up tents along Main Street; trucks pulled long, colorful motorcycle trailers into makeshift parking areas; RVs backed into campgrounds and old friends talked and laughed.
More than 100 people have been camping in Sturgis in anticipation of the rally since Saturday. Sturgis South Rally Board president Donny Hanson expects thousands more to show up over the next two or three days.
"I think we''re going to have a pretty good crowd," he said. "We''ve got a big crowd here already."
Preparations this week, however, have been hampered by rain.
"With the weather the way it is, these little spotty rains we''re getting, it''s making it quite difficult to get things ready down here, but we''ll be all right," Hanson said.
One of the vendors setting up Wednesday was Chris Swain, of Jackson-based Whistle Stop Cafe, who has attended the rally for the past four years.
"I like coming up here," Swain said. "You''ve got good people here. The biker crowd is fun. You hear about a lot of places where it''s not so nice, but this is a good atmosphere."
Festivities are set to kick off today. Registration begins at 1 p.m. at the entrance to Diane Jackson Memorial Park. Vendors also will be open throughout the day.
At 8 p.m., Allman Brothers tribute band Midnight Riders will perform at Diane Jackson Memorial Park. The Thursday night concert was free during prior rallies, but admission this year costs $20 per person, or $15 with a valid student ID.
Registration will resume Friday at 8 a.m. at the park gate and at a tent on Main Street. As of Aug. 1, when pre-registration ended, more than 700 bikers had registered to attend, Hanson said. He is encouraging riders to register and "help support the rally."
The annual Dinner Ride will take place Friday afternoon, during which bikers will line up and leave Sturgis at 4 p.m. and head up Highway 12 through Starkville. Live music in Diane Jackson Park will begin at 8 p.m. with the band Trademark, followed by former Bad Company singer Brian Howe at 10 p.m. Admission costs $20.
Activities and competitions resume Saturday at 9 a.m. and run throughout the day, followed by live music Saturday evening by Willy Waggs at 6 p.m., Crossin Dixon at 8 p.m. and Diamond Rio at 10 p.m. Admission to the Saturday night shows costs $25.
The rally will conclude Sunday with the "Blessing of the Bikes" at 9 a.m.
Along with bikes, music and food, the rally will feature a carnival this year.
A full schedule of events can be found on the rally website, www.sturgismsrally.com.