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The History of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota
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The History of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota

Sturgis, South Dakota is home to the largest Motorcycle event in the entire world. Nearly a half a million riders crowd into the city with a normal population of just over 7,000 people. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is always held the first full week of August. The weather is normally hot and dry, which makes it nearly perfect for motorcycle riding.

First Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and Race
The first race and rally to take place in Sturgis, South Dakota was in 1938. It had a total of nine riders. Local motorcycle fan founded what was then known as the Black Hills Classic. From that first race in 1938, the race and rally has turned into a major tourist attraction with riders coming from all over the world to take part in the festivities. J.C. "Pappy" Hoel was the founder of this very popular event.

Sturgis, South Dakota was founded in 1878 and is located near Fort Meade. The U.S. Calvary soldiers came into the town for fun and recreation. The rally was named for the commander of the Fort, Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis.

The Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club History
Pappy Hoel was a member of this early organization. He started his career in his family's ice business but purchased and developed one of the largest and most successful motorcycle franchises in the area. The first race was held on August 14, 1938 with only a small group of people watching. The Jackpine Gypsies still own and operate the tracks and the hills where the event is centered. The club was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1997.

The Woman Behind the Sturgis Rally
Pappy Hoel is credited with beginning the tradition of the Sturgis Rally, but it is a well-known fact that Pearl Hoel was the driving force behind the scenes. Mrs. Hoel was noted for her hospitality and was recognized as the keeper of the oral history of the Rally. She married Pappy in 1929 while she was employed as an investigator for the WPA. She also was elected to serve as County Auditor. Through it all she was a stalwart supporter of her husband's motorcycle franchise and the Rally. The Hoel's would set up a tent for the attendees in their yard and served coffee and donuts to the riders and campers. She continued the tradition of hosting a Coffee Party with old friends until her death.

Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame
The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame had its first home in an old church, renovated by nearly the entire town. It opened its doors in 2001 with borrowed vintage and classic motorcycles. The success of the Museum made a move to a larger building essential for its survival. It is now located in what used to be the town's Post Office located on the corner of Junction Avenue and Main Street. The museum offers a variety of exhibits of motorcycles, one dating back to 1905. The Wall of Fame honors those that were instrumental in the growth of the sport. The Wall also honors celebrities and riders who furthered the cause of motorcycle sports.

The Culture of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
Those riders who make the trip to Sturgis for the Rally each year normally go for the party atmosphere. Live concerts, racing, music and alcohol are all a part of the Sturgis Rally. The camp sites are well known for their parties and plenty of the activities include the girls. There is a lot of competition involving girls and their bodies. The city of Sturgis tries to keep a tight rein on nudity but there are many who will push the boundaries. The camping areas are big party sites and most are not recommended to riders with children. Investigate the camp sites and find some that are family friendly if you want to allow your children to attend. Alcohol is also a big part of the party scene in Sturgis.

Other Local Places of Interest
You can't go to Sturgis for biker week and not visit the Full Throttle Saloon. It is one of the world's largest biker bars and the place is "the" place to be during Biker Week. Previous events held at the Full Throttle have been midget wrestling, the "burn-out" pit, Beer Belly Contest and the Miss Full Throttle Saloon Contest. The Saloon also features a Bikers Breakfast Bar opening at 6 AM and a free beer happy hour between the hours of 5 and 6 PM.

The Fort Meade Museum has many exhibits that will keep you occupied for hours. You will see the timeline and history of the area and how it was developed. This would be a family friendly activity and it is especially popular during Sturgis Rally Week.

It is a thrill to see ribbons of motorcycles leading to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and other events. The parade and the rally are a welcome boost to the economy of Sturgis, South Dakota as well as to the whole state. Riding in is the most popular way to arrive, but many will travel in campers or motor homes towing their bikes and ride them into town when they are parked and set up. Follow the thousands of motorcycles down Interstate 90 and attend the longest running Rally in the United States.

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