Bikers rev up Aug. biz
By Mark Huffman, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
August 4, 2012
Thousands of black leather-clad motorcyclists are rumbling through Jackson Hole, but forget the scary images from “The Wild Bunch” and a hundred similar movies.
Instead, despite the semi-frightening fashion choices, think about a big boost in local business being delivered by a lot of gainfully employed professional people who just like the look and feel of the motorcycle life.
There’s no knowing how many bikers will pass through the area in the next two weeks. Estimates are that the 72nd annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, beginning officially Monday in South Dakota, will draw 800,000 people and almost as many motorcycles.
That means many thousands of people from west of Wyoming will pass through Jackson, going to Sturgis or going home. The event ends Aug. 12.
“Probably my biggest month of the year is August, and the first two weeks of the month is the driver,” said Tom Burr, general manager of Jackson Hole Harley-Davidson. “I came in this morning, and there were 20 bikes in front and it doesn’t end all day.”
Burr sells no motorcycles and doesn’t fix them; it’s just a retail clothing and gear shop. But he said bikers stop and buy.
“You got to pick up a T-shirt everywhere you go,” he said of the Sturgis-bound crowd.
Kevin Gries at the Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse said business before, during and after Sturgis is “huge.”
“We’ve been getting crushed,” Gries said. “It started about 10 days ago and right now it’s full-on. It’s biker week for the next couple of weeks.”
His restaurant is serving dinner to about 250 people a night right now, Gries said. “Eighty to 100 of those are sporting Harley gear — it’s 30 to 40 percent realistically.”
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar owner Carol Andersen said her experience of the Sturgis-related flood has been the same: It’s “absolutely busy” and not noticeably more dangerous than any other time at a place where the main business is alcohol.
“These guys come every year, and they’re always on their good behavior,” Andersen said. “Most bike riders these days are professional people out having a good time.”
Even the people most likely to have a horror story to tell had a hard time coming up with one. Lt. Bob Gilliam of the Jackson Police Department couldn’t think of anything nastier to say about the visiting bikers than to call them “mostly well-
“We notice them, but I can tell you that 99 percent of them coming through town are bankers and lawyers, police officers and firemen, investment bankers and news reporters,” Gilliam said. “They’re mostly good folks out for a good ride.”
Even the occasional “outlaw motorcycle gang passing through” hasn’t caused trouble in years, Gilliam said. The most recent case he recalled was in the early 1990s when some bad bikers “took over the campground where the library now sits.” The visitors got a SWAT response because they were “loud and drunk, firing guns,” he said.
Law officers will be a bit more vigilant. The Wyoming Highway Patrol announced it will be boosting its patrols in the next week in anticipation of big biker traffic. The main target is people driving drunk or impaired, the patrol said.