Evolution of the Sturgis Rally

With the 74th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally only a few months away, it won’t be long before the serenity of the Black Hills is overtaken by the rumble of motorcycles. While some riders may be experiencing their first Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this year, many will be returning as well-seasoned Sturgis veterans that for one week out of the year consider Sturgis to be there home away from home. Here is a deeper look into how the Sturgis Rally & Races came to be one of the largest motorcycle events in the word.

The Beginning:

J.C. “Pappy” Hoel, local motorcycle shop owner& founder of the Jackpine Gypsies motorcycle club, is credited as the founding father of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Started in 1938, the Black Hills Classic (as it was called at the time) first took place on August 14th in Sturgis, SD. Consisting of a small crowd and only a handful of racers, the first Black Hills Classic was only a weekend long event showcasing races and motorcycle stunts.

The 40′s:

During the 1940’s, word had started to spread about the gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts in Sturgis, SD. With the exception of 1942 when the event was not held due to fuel rationings during WWII, the Classic grew in attendance during this time and new events were added to satisfy the growing crowds.

The 60′s:

By 1960, the Black Hills Classic had reached an attendance of 800 people and with the help of the Jackpine Gypsies the event expanded to include the now famous motocross and hill climb events. In 1964, one block of Main Street in downtown Sturgis was officially closed to facilitate motorcycle parking for what had now become a three-day event and in 1965 was extended to a five day event.

The 70’s:

With the number of biker continuing to increase, the Black Hills Classic evolved into the seven day event that it remains to this day. The 1970’s also brought along the presence of street vendors to Sturgis with nine vendors being officially licensed by the city during the 1979 event.

The 80′s:

1985 brought about the 45th Anniversary of the Classic, a milestone that was dedicated to founder J.C. “Pappy” Hoel by South Dakota Governor William Janklow. Another important milestone occurred in 1986 when local Sturgis resident Tom Monahan donated a piece of artwork to the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce that would serve as the Official Logo of the Black Hills Classic.

The 90’s:

During the 90’s, efforts would be made to better organize this rapidly growing event and a new group was formed that would focus on the growth and promotion of this event while representing the interests of the local community, this group was Sturgis Rally and Races, Inc. During this time the official name of the annual event was also changed from the Black Hills Motor Classic to the Sturgis Rally and Races.


Over the past 74 years the Sturgis Rally and Races has become the largest gathering of its kind. Each August hundreds of thousands of bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts descend upon Sturgis for this annual event producing an enormous economic impact for the region.

The Black Hills provide an excellent backdrop and miles of scenic roadways for motorcycle riding and are also home to well-known attractions such as Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and historic Deadwood. This area is a great place to visit any time of the year, but if you are looking to ride, consider visiting during the annual Sturgis Rally and Races in August. Total attendance for the 2013 Rally was nearly 470,000 people, and there is always room for a few more.

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