STURGIS, S.D. (AP) — The Black Hills of South Dakota are roaring with motorcycles and crowds Friday as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally starts.
The annual rally returns just as coronavirus cases in the state are rising with the more contagious delta variant.
Organizers say they expected at least 700,000 people to show up during the 10-day event.
Even on Thursday, downtown Sturgis was clogged with Harleys, rallygoers crowded shoulder-to-shoulder at bars and rock shows, and masks were nowhere in sight.
Public health experts worry the rally will again be a vehicle to spread coronavirus infections.
Hundreds of rallygoers were infected last year, spreading the virus to other communities.
According to the Associated Press, for those that live in the county that hosts the motorcycle rally, only 46% of adults are vaccinated.
Infections are also on the rise in the state, with the state's health department reporting a jump of 68% in virus infections last week, the AP reported.
This year, to help mitigate the risk of those becoming infected with the contagious delta variant, city officials are allowing rallygoers to drink on public property, the AP reported.