As Sturgis-related COVID-19 cases rise, including the first fatality, the rally will go on as usual.
Hot on the heels of Sturgis and Laconia, Milwaukee will be hosting its own motorcycle rally over Labor Day weekend, aptly called the Milwaukee Rally. During a normal year, it sounds like a good time, a celebration of all things Harley-Davidson in the company's hometown. However, 2020 is anything but a normal year. Considering the increasing fallout of COVID-19 infections from Sturgis, including the first fatality directly related to the rally, is the Milwaukee Rally such a good idea?
On an anniversary year, such as 2018, this rally can attract upwards of 100,000 people. This year, Harley-Davidson's 117th birthday will likely bring in many fewer. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the state had 79,354 confirmed cases and 1,153 deaths as of September 4, 2020. Yet, like South Dakota, there are no mandated quarantines or travel restrictions, merely recommendations to avoid non-essential travel. Unlike South Dakota, though, Wisconsin does have a mandatory mask mandate for when people are indoors or in an "enclosed space," which includes outdoor dining and bar areas.
We must clarify that despite the Milwaukee Rally revolving around the Harley-Davidson brand, the manufacturer itself is not directly participating in any way. "For the remainder of 2020, Harley-Davidson is adjusting support for any remaining dealer-led activations at regional consumer events in ways that align with public health and safety guidelines and encouraging socially distant riding through its United We Will Ride global campaign," a spokesperson for the company said. This is consistent with Harley's policy at Sturgis.
You wouldn't know it from the five Harley-Davidson dealers, as well as the Harley-Davidson Museum, participating in the Milwaukee Rally. Some are taking measures to protect from the coronavirus. Uke's Harley-Davidson, for example, is only hosting events for one day rather than the entire long weekend. Wisconsin Harley-Davidson is spacing out vendors, installing numerous hand sanitizer stations, and hiring security to enforce Wisconsin's mask mandate. They're even holding an online mask of the day contest to help encourage people to wear them.
I understand that people are bored of everything happening in 2020 being canceled. Even I went for a small group ride last weekend. Yet I have to question the wisdom of holding a motorcycle rally such as this hot on the heels of the first reported Sturgis fatality from COVID-19, with the number of infections directly connected to Sturgis continuing to grow. The more that people don't take this seriously, the longer we're going to have to put up with more and more canceled events, infections, and deaths. People love their Harley-Davidsons, but with no disrespect intended to the brand, they're not worth dying for.