STURGIS — Nothing was going to stop Joe and Jo Jo Young from riding their Harley Davidsons into Sturgis on Saturday.
The couple rode three hours from State Line, a Mississippi town on the Alabama border with fewer than 600 people. They began riding in 2008, when soaring gas prices inspired them to purchase motorcycles. Since then the two have logged more than 41,000 miles on their bikes and made the trip to Sturgis every year its been held.
Joe, 54, had surgery on his knee in 2012 and broke his back in 2014, but he intends to ride as long as he can.
“We enjoy coming,” he said. “It’s a rally you can go to that’s more family oriented.”
In fact, it’s the rally where their family began. Joe asked Jo Jo to marry him in Sturgis during the 2010 rally.
From 2011 to 2013 there was no rally in Sturgis for the Youngs and hundreds of other Mississippi motorcycle enthusiasts to attend. But in 2014, The Rally Board, a non-profit group that organizes the event in this Oktibbeha County town, worked things out with the Sturgis government and began hosting the rally again.
Carolyn Oswalt has been on The Rally Board since 2001. She said the biggest challenge in getting the rally going again has been advertising.
“When you have a couple of years without it, you need a little help letting people know it’s back,” Oswalt said.
Only 115 riders had preregistered for the weekend rally, but as the sun beat down Saturday thousands of motorcycles lined the street in Sturgis. Bearded men and women in bandanas walked among more than 30 vendors selling everything from corndogs to Confederate flags. Many wore leather vests with patches identifying the club they rode with: Lake Trash; Dream Riders; Delta Riders; Bandidos; Pistoleros; Tribe of Judah; Iron Warriors; Deadneck Riders; Notorious Ones; King Riders; and Talons Motorcycle Club.
The Rally Board did not have an exact registration count as of Saturday afternoon, but said attendance was similar to 2014, when the rally attracted 2,000 registered riders and nearly 20,000 guests.
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