- Associated Press - Monday, August 1, 2016

STURGIS, S.D. (AP) - Officials are expecting a smaller and quieter Sturgis Motorcycle Rally than last year’s 75th anniversary event, which drew record crowds.

The 76th rally in western South Dakota’s Black Hills is Aug. 8-14. The biggest indicator of a potential big drop in attendance is the abundance of available motel rooms and campground spaces, the Rapid City Journal reported.

“There’s room in the inn,” said Susan Johnson with Black Hills Central Reservations of Deadwood. “Even during the 2015 rally, we could always find a room. But the difference this year is we’ve got rooms all over the Black Hills, campgrounds all over the Black Hills. We’ve got more private homes than we have ever had.”

A record 739,000 people attended last year’s event, which was a 67 percent more than in 2014. Rally Director Jerry Cole said this year’s event is likely to be an average rally - but that would still mean a half-million people.

The decreased demand for hotel rooms and campground spaces could make this year’s rally more affordable. Reservation rates typically go up during the rally, but “there are lodging partners that didn’t even change their prices,” Johnson said. “It’s a buyer’s market this year.”

Rally activity has begun, with the event still a week away. Black Hills Harley-Davidson held its Pre-Rally Rollout event over the weekend, and transient vendors have started setting up shop, KEVN-TV reported. Zachary Shaw is one, coming from Florida a week early to set up his T-shirt business.

“Sturgis is something special to us,” he said. “We’ve been coming 20-plus years, and we enjoy every year of it.”

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