Thousands of bikers have defied social distancing guidelines as they gathered for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on Friday.
Up to a quarter of a million people are expected to converge on the city in South Dakota for the 10-day festival, which will feature live music, bikes stunts and races.
Photos from the festival show attendees gathered close together as they watched a parade of souped-up motorcycles rev through the downtown area.
Most people in the crowd also chose to forgo face coverings – ignoring recommendations put forward by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials say they were powerless to stop the event from going ahead, with Public Information Officer Christina Steele telling CBS: ‘The decision to hold the Rally came after hearing from thousands of attendees that they were coming to the event, even if it was canceled by the city of Sturgis.’
‘The city felt it had to be prepared with adequate emergency ambulance, fire and police services to assist with these people,’ she told the news network.
‘The large camping facilities located outside the city control also made it known that they would remain open and had thousands of camping reservations in place.’
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has been an annual event since 1938, and has been attracting around 500,000 people in recent years.
While numbers are expected to be down this year, there were tens of thousands who would not be deterred.
According to The Daily Beast several attendees left comments that were dismissive of COVID-19 on the Rally’s official Facebook page.
‘On my way I ain’t scared of the media flu or as we call it round here election flu see ya soon South Dakota’, one wrote.
‘Just call it a big protest !! And it be A-Ok!!’ another remarked.
The publication reports that people have arrived from all across the country, and at least one store is selling ‘Screw Covid’ shirts.
South Dakota has recorded more than 9,300 coronavirus cases since the outbreak of the pandemic in March. 144 residents have died.