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The History of Sturgis
The story of Sturgis goes something like this. Back in the thirties, J.C. Hoel and some riding buddies formed a motorcycle club called the Jackpine Gypsies. The purpose of the club was to hold events and racing.
One version of the story of Sturgis has a rider killing a pig on one of their outings. When the group went to the farmer to compensate him for the animal, the rancher declines payment and gives the pig to the club. The club has a pig roast and thus the first Sturgis.
Another (and more historically correct) version of the story of Sturgis has Clarence J. C. "Pappy" Hoel, who was also a business man and owner of the local Indian dealership in Sturgis at a time when the Harley-Davidson and Indians wars were being waged, decided to hold a meet on a new half mile oval dirt track complete with stunt shows to compliment the racing. This first Sturgis was held on August 14, 1938. The first Sturgis Motorcycle Rally had a total of nine racers competing for a $500 purse on the new half mile oval dirt track Stunt riding were an integral part of the event. This event at Sturgis became known as the Black Hills Motorcycle Classic.
During the 1940s, the event of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally became popular and attracted more and more people. The event was canceled during World War II but by 1945 the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was back. Sometime during the disillusionment that followed WWII, another biker event began. This was held in the small town of Deadwood, about 20 miles away. This was an "outlaw" biker rally and the two events were separate.
The sixties saw an increase in traffic to both sites, and attendees at the AMA rally and the "outlaw" rally began visiting each other. in 1965 about 1,000 bikers camped out in the City Park (later closed). By 1976, Sturgis had become the center of activity for a single Motorcycle rally. This was a real bikers event, known mostly to hard core riders.
The 1980s rolled in and Sturgis began to change. Press coverage of the event touted Sturgis as a "down-to-earth unspoiled Harley biker outlaw idyll". Harleys became "in" and life in unspoiled nature also became "in". Sturgis offered all of this and more. At this point, about 30,000 people were attending the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally event.
In 1990 an estimated 400,000 bikers descended on Sturgis to celebrate its 50th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally anniversary. And 1990 is critical in that Sturgis itself underwent a transformations. The Black Hills Motor Classic was replaced by the Sturgis Rally and Races. Commercial marketing of the event exploded, and the event is now widely regarded as the largest motorcycle event in the world. The National Motorcycle Museum was created and corporate sponsorship of the event Sturgis Rally and Races took off.
This year is the 64th anniversary and 650,000 are expected to attend. And racing is still an integral part of this Sturgis Rally and Races event. you can now see dragsters, hill climbs and motocross as well as oval track racing. And Sturgis is no longer considered a rally for the "outlaw" clubs. It has become a regional Sturgis Rally and Races event. Rapid City, towns in the Black Hills and other areas surrounding Sturgis are now part of the Sturgis Rally and Races event. Events have been added progressively throughout the years, and the schedule of activities is phenomenal with over 124 events being held over ten wild days of motorcycles at the Sturgis Rally and Races.
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