Michael Daly Special Correspondent
The Harley-Davidson company has been associated with the rally in the South Dakota town of Sturgis since its inception decades ago.
The big, throbbing Harley “hog” is the rally’s official motorcycle.
The town’s main intersection is Main Street and Harley-Davidson Way.
The plaza at the center of Sturgis is the Harley-Davidson Rally Point, and those who assemble there stand on a huge Harley-Davidson Logo.
Bill Davidson, grandson of company founder William Davidson, attended the plaza’s official opening in 2015, a ceremony that involved a blowtorch and a chain rather than scissors and a ribbon.
As that was the 75th anniversary of the rally, the plaza included 75 bricks from Harley-Davidson’s hundred-year-old headquarters in Milwaukee, transported to Sturgis by a fleet of motorcycles.
The opening ceremonies for the rally have been held at the plaza every year since then, featuring speeches, celebrity appearances, live music and a daredevil motorcycle jump, all accompanied by the rumble of thousands of Harleys.
The company was always a big presence during the nine days that followed.
“Usually, we have trucks and staff and products and demos and everything,” a company spokesperson told The Daily Beast on Friday. “This year, we aren’t doing that.”
The difference is the pandemic, which makes a mass gathering of any kind dangerous, especially if the turnout is expected to reach 250,000 and the participants largely dismiss such proven precautions as wearing masks and social distancing.
The dangers gave pause even to a company that counts on people’s willingness to risk being pinballed around without the protection of seat belts or air bags.