The week-long Sturgis Motorcycle Rally—which takes place every August—attracts a crowd nearly 10 times the size of Sturgis, S.D. Photo: Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

The people of Sturgis benefit from the presence of their rally-going guests. In addition to sales tax revenue generated by the event, many local churches, service organizations, and youth groups profit by providing breakfast throughout the week. And while the event unavoidably disrupts normal daily life for local citizens, they've learned to adapt.

“Local people learn to get their daily errands done early in the morning before traffic congestion begins,” said Kaufman. “Many local citizens take on part-time jobs working for the vendors that come in for the event, most of the citizens stay home and put up with the week, and some take vacation that week to get away from the chaos.”

Throughout the rest of the year, the Sturgis area hosts a number of other events, but none of them rival the size and scope of the motorcycle rally. One other nationwide draw is the National Sheepdog Trials—which attract a completely different kind of animal

Mardi Gras—an event without equal

As part of this report, we had originally intended to cover the impact of Mardi Gras on New Orleans. Following Hurricane Katrina, for obvious reasons, that was no longer appropriate. In the past, Mardi Gras has doubled New Orleans' population and generated more than $1 billion in annual spending. When Mardi Gras will return as the “greatest free show on earth,” is unknown, but return it will. Concerns for transportation, waste management, and crowd control will seem simple and even welcome after Katrina's very unwelcome visit.