Their numbers may have been small, but the spirit of attendees was enormous at the first Light Up The Hills Rally in Sturgis last week.
The event was the brainchild of Q.D. Hix who envisioned a gathering of Christian motorcyclists while riding in the Black Hills about 10 years ago.
Although numbers of attendees were not what organizers had hoped for, Hix believes those who did attend will return to their hometowns and share about the event which will translate to bigger numbers in the future.
“For the first year, we’re pleased with the turnout,” Hix said. “Certainly it is not in the thousands, but everyone who is here is having a great time and that’s the way we are judging the success of the first year’s event.”
Hix estimated the crowd somewhere between 300 and 400.
“We have people here from 12 to 15 different states. We’ve got East Coast, West Coast, Texas, Minnesota – that means they will take the word back about how good a time they had and bring folks back with them next year,” he said.
Tony Maiefski of Council Bluffs, Iowa head about the gathering from his local chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association.
“I was on fire to go,” he said.
Maiefski is no stranger to Sturgis. He has come for the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally in August three times, but said coming for the Light Up The Hills Rally was quite special.
“It’s about sharing the love of Jesus and glorify God. This is a great rally and it’s going to get really, really big,” he said.
He and fellow motorcyclists took advantage of being in the Black Hills during a time when throngs of motorcyclists were not clogging area scenic roadways.
“We went through Spearfish Canyon. That’s one of the best rides out there,” he said.
Quinn Peterson of the Fellowship of Motorcycle Ministries said initially the group wanted to hold the event around the first week in June, but said Sturgis city officials encouraged them to choose a later date to draw it closer to the annual rally.
“Certainly there are only a certain number of weekends available during the riding season here. I understand June may be a little rainy,” he said.
But last week presented a conflict for the Light Up The Hills Rally organizers because the South Dakota Christian Motorcyclists Association rally was running at the same time in Rapid City.
“Many of the Christian riders from here are over in Rapid City,” Peterson said while attending a Christian concert at the Harley-Davidson Rally Point in downtown Sturgis Saturday.
He, too, believes that those who did attend the rally will return and share about their experience with others.