I had mixed feelings about Sturgis North going in and I have mixed feelings now that the event is finished.
I think many in the community were pleasantly surprised at the relative calm despite the noise of a few thousand motorcycles. I was pleased to hear there were no major injuries or collisions, few arrests and relatively few instances of impaired driving. Some people complained about the heavy police presence; however, the police were dealing with many unknowns for the first event, so in my mind, better to be over-prepared than caught short. Imagine the hue and cry if something had happened. While it may be impossible to quantify what actions the police presence prevented, I believe people attending knew there were plenty of police around and behaved accordingly.
Many of the bikers who arrived were just as advertised: just a bunch of motorcycle-loving people looking to have a good time. Some were very happy, saying they had a great time, that the people here were welcoming and they’d be happy to return.
“Awesome, awesome event,” said a rider from the Lower Mainland. “It’s not like the real Sturgis yet, but give it time. I’ll bet next year there’s three, four times as many bikes.”
There was a litany of complaints as well, although many visitors were charitable, chalking it up to normal first-time bumps in the road. Communication was an issue for some people I spoke to, who said events didn’t start as scheduled, it was difficult to find information and they thought they would be getting more for the relatively steep ticket prices.
“They were smart,” said one rider from High Level, Alta. “I came because of the name Sturgis, but that name doesn’t mean much to me now. I’m underwhelmed.”
Some local businesses were thrilled beyond belief with their sales, one telling me this was the best weekend they’d ever recorded. Others were not as enamoured of the event, saying they didn’t see much business from the bikers and the event kept locals and the usual tourist crowd away.
Maybe I’m just an over-protective mother, but I must admit to having major qualms about the motorcycle stunt show held on Alexander Street Saturday. Crowds lined the street with children and adults sitting on the curbs, with only a piece of flagging tape marking off the area. I was enjoying watching the bikes race up and down the road, but as the stunts progressed, the bikes got closer and closer to the crowd, and I began to feel pretty edgy about safety. I know these are professionals, but even the best rider could make a mistake, or a child could have darted out, and disaster could have been the result. Apparently I wasn’t the only worried mama bear, since the RCMP also reported hearing complaints.
For the most part, I think many in Salmon Arm were pleasantly surprised. There was traffic and noise, the addition of some exotic dancers and some jacked-up prices at local establishments. But many seem eager to welcome Sturgis North next year. Yes, it was a very mixed bag of opinions – much like Salmon Arm itself.
-Tracy Hughes is the editor of the Salmon Arm Observer