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Fatalities down at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

STURGIS (AP) — More accidents caused injuries but there were fewer fatalities during this year's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in western South Dakota.

The Highway Patrol's final count showed 69 accidents caused injuries during the weeklong rally, up from 50 last year. Six people died in crashes in the Sturgis and Rapid City areas, down from nine in 2012.

The number of drunken driving arrests during this year's rally was about the same — 255 compared to 251 last year. There were 275 misdemeanor and felony drug arrests, up from 219 a year ago.

The increases likely are due to more people at this year's rally, Highway Patrol Capt. Kevin Karley told KNBN-TV. Final crowd numbers won't be available until later in the week, but "we can see the traffic is up this year," he said.

Businesses in the region are expecting that final tallies will show a profitable week, Jody Sperlich, director of operations at the Rapid City Visitors Bureau, told KNBN.

"They're really feeling that their numbers are going to be up over last year," she said of shops and hotels. "The state uses a figure of about $243 per day, is what visitors coming into South Dakota spend per day. So that's an awfully big economic impact to the state and our community."

The annual rally in the Black Hills draws hundreds of thousands of people each year. This year's rally — the 73rd annual — started Aug. 5 and wrapped up Sunday, with bikers packing up and hitting the road.

"It was a sea of tents. I mean it's crazy, all of a sudden they're gone and you're thinking wow, where did everybody go?" Tom Carter, owner of the Tilford Gulch Campground, told KOTA-TV.

Main Street in Sturgis also had a different look Sunday.

"When we first came in the street was totally full of bikes, constantly going up and down the street," said Jayne Davis. "Today the middle of the street is empty, bikes parked on the side, and not nearly as many folks going up and down the street."

After a week of shopping, eating, riding, and attending concerts, rallygoer Charles Franklin had one small problem as he and his fiancee, Sheila Matson, prepared to leave.

"Finding space for all the stuff you just bought," he told KOTA, laughing.

Next year's rally is scheduled for Aug. 4-10.