(Originally Posted by Creeping Jennie on Sunday, 29 March 2015 in Sturgis.com Blogs)
One issue that is guaranteed to start a debate in Sturgis circles is the topic of bringing children to the Rally. Personally, I see both sides of the argument.
Growing up in the Black Hills area, I was always led to believe that good girls don't go to Sturgis. Bikers were dirty, they stole, swore, drank and caused trouble. The young ladies who partook of the festivities in Sturgis were no better than prostitutes, and the bikers who took them there. Back in the 80s, it was certainly not a place for children. In fact, the school children of Sturgis seemed to have a reputation of being tough and prone to bizarre behavior. Any of those urban legends that we all have heard, such as the girl who had to have a frozen hot dog surgically removed, or the boy who ate his own hand in a LSD fueled episode, were always from Sturgis. I discovered in adulthood that the kids in Sturgis always pinned the urban legend stories on kids from Rapid City. Strange how rumors work, isn't it?
Many Rallygoers see bike rallies as an adult party. The usual expectation is that "anything goes," which includes alcohol soaked orgies, nakedness, swinging, drugs, and whatever else. Certainly this type of experience can be found; one must only seek it out. For many others, the Rally is about riding the Black Hills, and enjoying the company of fellow riders. Still yet, some find the Rally to be a time to consume large quantities of alcohol, enjoy the concerts, and have a good time. To all, it is a time and place that is free of negative judgement, and fewer restrictions and worries than "normal" daily life.
I am a lucky girl. I have lived in two European countries, and have traveled a bit more than the average person. I understand that there is not just one way to skin a cat, and no matter which way you choose, the skin still comes off the cat. I was lucky enough to attend the Thunderbolt Rally in Dungog, New South Wales, Australia in May of 2012. This Rally was put on by Australia's largest social motorcycle club, American Motorcycle Club. They held the entire rally in the fairgrounds of the village of Dungog, which seemed to me tiny in comparison to Sturgis. They had vendors, contests of various kinds, and alcohol sales. The band Rose Tattoo, a very popular rock band in the country, was slated to provide musical entertainment. There were patched members of many clubs I had heard of, and many I had never heard of, social clubs and 1% clubs alike. Only two things took me by surprise. The first was that they sold cotton candy, which the Aussies call fairy floss. Teeheehee! Imagine! Big, burly, leathered up bikers eating fluffy pink billows of cotton candy! It was quite an entertaining sight. The second surprising thing to me was the sheer number of children in attendance. There were children there of all ages, from infancy to late teens.
During daylight hours, children ran around freely, enjoying everything the Rally had to offer. When the sun went down, the children were relegated back to their parents' tents and campers, put to bed under the supervision of an older teen, friend or relative who either volunteered to be on babysitting duty, or drew the short straw. As we drank our Bundy and Cola cans, enjoying the comradery of new and old friends, throwing things into the fire, the children went to bed.
One large tent would be the place where there would be a strip show. There were signs posted advising that after a certain time, no one under 18 would be admitted. Sure enough, we heard the commotion from our tent. Strip shows are a normal part of bike rallies, as are *ahem* the young women who provide favors to those who pay for them. We heard stories about naughty adventures had by rallygoers, definitely not child appropriate.
At first, I was shocked that the presence of children seemed to be encouraged at what I was taught to be an adults only party. Then I thought about it. I remembered that my own mother had taken me and my siblings down Main Street to look at all of the motorcycles when I was about twelve. We went during the day, and left before the sun had a chance to think about setting. I don't remember seeing anything that I should not have seen.
My husband is from Australia, and the rally I described was put on by his former club, of which he was the national secretary. His own children attended various Thunderbolt rallies. They grew up in the club, and his oldest has followed his father's example. One of his daughters, at the age of twenty, attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in 2010 with us. Also in attendance were my two oldest kids. My son was seventeen, almost eighteen, and had just graduated high school. My daughter was fifteen. We rented a camper, and all five of us stayed there together at the Buffalo Chip.
My two kids did not see anything that they should not have seen. They stayed in my sight outside of the camper. They did not stay the whole week, as the Rally is just not their thing. No one bothered my kids, and my kids did not bother anyone. Before deciding to bring them, I made sure that they were prepared for things they may see. They are both pretty easygoing, and used to my odd sense of humor, and nothing rattled them. Would I take my youngest son, who is now eleven, to the Buffalo Chip? Nope. He is a totally different kid, and he would not be able to handle it. He does not stay put, and everyone he sees is his friend. He would get himself into trouble, and it would be a hell of a lot of work for me to look after him. I will take him to Main Street during the day so he can check out the bikes, but he does not need to hang out after the sun goes to bed.
Some arguments I have heard against brining kids to the rally:
1. "Your kid is going to ruin my vacation! I left my kids home for a reason!"
2. "It's an adult party, and kids should not see any of that!"
3. "People bringing their kids to the Rally is going to turn it into a PG13 kid's party, and ruin the Rally."
4. "I don't want to go to jail because I bought your daughter a beer."
5. "Great. You bring your kid, and I get busted for statutory rape and branded a pedophile. You just ruined my life because you couldn't leave your kid at home." (Yes, actually heard a man say this)
My arguments against the preceding:
1. Would a kid ruin your vacation any other place? Vegas? Hawaii? Anywhere? Doubtful.
2. While an "adult" party certainly can be found, it's not a big naked orgy everywhere. If you don't want to stay where children are allowed, then find out what the rules are for the different campgrounds, and choose accordingly.
3. Hahahahahaha! Nope. As long as there are places that prohibit children, there will be naked adult parties, and the Rally will not turn into Mommy and Me classes.
4. My daughter will not leave my sight. Don't buy alcohol for girls who may be underage without looking at their ID. Duh. Better yet, stay out of places where children are allowed.
5. Um seriously? How about you not put your dick into children? That's all on you, Buddy.
Some arguments I have heard for bringing kids to the Rally:
1. "I want to get my kids interested in motorcycles and motorcycle culture."
2. "My kids should be able to go anywhere I go."
3. "They should make the Rally family friendly."
4. "We have family in the Black Hills, and we wanted to kill two birds with one stone."
5. "There is lots for them to see and do in the Black Hills, and we think they would enjoy it."
Arguments against the preceding:
1. Yes! You should! Motorcycle culture is not a dirty secret to be hidden from children. There are a lot of good lessons they can learn about loyalty, honor, and integrity.
2. Now I don't agree with that entirely. There are places where children should not go, and parents need to accept that.
3. Nooooooooooo. We do not need to dumb down the world so you don't have to step up and actually be a parent. Children need to learn that the world will not revolve around them, and they will have to comply with rules and regulations. Sorry if that means your precious little snowflake will not experience a childhood that is magical and filled with wonder every single second because you have to get a sitter. We are all free to make our own choices in life, don't interfere with my freedom.
4. I have no problem with this, as long as you do not take Junior to places where he shouldn't go.
5. Yes there is! Plan your trip around your family. There is plenty to do and see here, but just know that in Sturgis during the Rally, there will be a lot of places your kid will not be allowed to go.
A few caveats for those who wish to take their kids to the Rally:
Choose your accommodations carefully. Find out what the policies are. Some campgrounds have quiet hours. Some don't allow kids. Some are famous for naked parades. Some may have live music, but if children are not allowed in the area where the band plays due to alcohol laws, your kid can't watch the show.
Consider renting a house in Rapid City, and visiting Sturgis during the day. Rapid City is centrally located in the Black Hills area. It's not far from Rapid to Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, The Badlands, etc. There are a number of parks and activities for kids in Rapid City as well.
Understand that it is very crowded and noisy. Many kids simply cannot deal with so much stimulation. No one will enjoy themselves if your kid is freaking out.
Know your kid. If your children are under ten, highly sensitive, picky eaters, have health problems, have severe allergies, tend to wander off, or are demanding little brats, I would suggest that you leave them at home. For Pete's sake, if I see another baby in a stroller at one more concert, I'm going to lose my freaking mind.
Ultimately, think of what's best for your kid, not what you want to do, not what sounds good for the short term. Isn't that what you should be doing as a parent, anyway?