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New rock fest in gear with Sturgis rally

Sammy Hagar, Black Crowes among planned acts
/ Source: Billboard

Take 600,000 people, tens of thousands of motorcycles, more beer and barbecue than anyone can imagine ... and add music.

The biggest motorcycle enthusiast gathering in the United States is turning up the volume. Producers are creating a music festival around the massive 66th annual Black Hills Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D., with a lineup that includes Sammy Hagar, Big & Rich, Keith Urban and the Black Crowes.

The new Rock’n the Rally festival is set for Aug. 6-10, right in the middle of Bike Week. The undertaking includes the construction of an amphitheater.

Mark Russo, production manager/site coordinator for festival producer Dork Fish, says, “As opposed to the ’build it and they will come’ theory, we subscribe to the ’build it where they already are’ theory.”

They are there, all right, and in huge numbers. The town of Sturgis normally has a population of 6,500. When the Rally comes to town, its population swells to 600,000. The total population of South Dakota is 754,000.

Dork Fish Entertainment is building an $11 million permanent amphitheater on a 34-acre site at the Glencoe Camp Resort in Sturgis. Funding comes from Sturgis entrepreneur and Glencoe Nation owner Gary Lippold, who already has a strong presence in the city with the campground and other business ventures. Dork Fish has a 10-year partnership agreement with Lippold.

Hard-driving lineupThe event’s producers find themselves in uncharted waters, and first-year festivals are unpredictable by nature. “No one has ever done a festival like this in conjunction with an event like the Sturgis Bike Rally,” Russo says. “Every other festival exists on its own merit and convinced everyone it was a destination they wanted to go to.”

Capacity will be as high as 60,000 at the venue, and the talent lineup for the festival is strong. With a $3 million talent budget, the acts booked include Sammy Hagar, Big & Rich, Keith Urban, Steve Miller, Cheap Trick, Steppenwolf, Fabulous Thunderbirds, REO Speedwagon, 38 Special, Foghat, Georgia Satellites, Greg Rollie, Shooter Jennings, Live, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Nickelback and the Black Crowes.

Hagar will close the festival and wrap his summer tour in Sturgis. His Cabo Wabo Village concourse attraction will be at the site all week. “Playing for bikers for me is a natural thing,” Hagar says. “In my set, when I bust out with ’I Can’t Drive 55,’ ’Bad Motor Scooter,’ ’Let Sally Drive,’ these are all drivin’ songs, man. These bikers are gonna love my ass.”

Tickets range from $40 to $70 per day and went on sale March 10 at starticketsplus.com.

Over a five-year period, the new venue will add covered, fixed seats. “It will be more like a conventional amphitheater, but on a very large scale because there isn’t another amphitheater in the U.S. on this much acreage,” Russo says. The venue will be used for events besides Rock’n the Rally, including Memorial Day and Fourth of July concerts.