75 Years of Sturgis

Sturgis 70There’s only one Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The annual event to the small town of Sturgis, South Dakota is a pilgrimage for all things motorcycle related and their many leather-clad fans. 2015 marks the 75th anniversary of the rally, so here’s a brief look back, and a glance at the future.


The first meeting of what would become the famous Sturgis rally was held on August 14, 1938. Clarence “Pappy” Hoel purchased a local Indian Motorcycle dealership in 1936 and formed the Jackpine Gypsies motorcycle club partly as a promotional tool. Pappy and his wife Pearl turned the original six rider meet into an annual event, featuring races, rallies, and contests on the outskirts of town.

In a time when motorcyclists were viewed as outlaws and criminals by the public, Pappy and Pearl’s acceptance of everyone – including reporters – broke down stereotypes and led to the welcoming feel of the enormous rally. The desire of guests to return year after year is probably what led to it growing exponentially, and led to Sturgis becoming the definitive American motorcycle rally.


Now a town of just under 7,000 people, Sturgis is invaded each August by roughly a half million motorcycle enthusiasts. Live music, bike shows, food, cruises, poker runs, contests, races, exhibitions, and uncountable vendors offering everything motorcycle related you can think of, are all a part of the massive event. The small town is welcoming of the enthusiasts, as the attraction brings South Dakota a staggering $800 million boost to the local economy.

The Jackpine Gypsies are still around, and own a lot of the land the Sturgis rally meets at each year. The club still hosts races at the event, including motocross, a 1/2 mile race, hill climbs, and short track.

The Future

Harley-Davidson, the longtime unofficial motorcycle of Sturgis, became the official motorcycle in 2015 with the announcement of a partnership between the motorcycle manufacturer and the host city. The agreement gives H-D tons of visibility and the town gets a new brick plaza and stage for year-round events.

This new agreement will help fuel many more years of freedom, independence and rebellion for this iconic gathering,” said Matt Levatich, president and COO of Harley-Davidson, in a press release. “Riding is a passion passed down through generations, so it’s important we celebrate the legacy and history of Harley-Davidson in Sturgis, while helping creating new memories.”

If you would like to create your own new memories of this fantastic event, clear out your calendar for August 3 – 9, and make your way to South Dakota. Book now, as the place is obviously going to be packed with fellow bikers. Bring your ride and a good attitude, and you are almost guaranteed to have a great time.

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