Every year during the first week of August, the small town of Sturgis is descended upon by hundreds of thousands of people. Bike enthusiasts, vendors, and party-goers from around the globe come to take part in the world’s largest motorcycle rally, The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
What started out as a way to offer visitors a little entertainment while visiting the Black Hills quickly grew into a world-renowned event that entices an average of over 500,000 visitors to the Black Hills area every year, a far cry from the 200 that attended the first rally.
The First Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
That first rally was held in 1938, and was conceived and organized by Clarence “Pappy” Hoel and his band of Indian motorcycle enthusiast friends, collectively known as The Jack Pine Gypsies Motorcycle Club. They held the event behind the Indian dealership that Pappy had purchased in 1936, which was basically just a dirt track race in which nine riders competed for beer money in front of a couple hundred people.
To really draw in the crowds, they also held events such as intentional board wall crashes, ramp jumps, and head-on collisions. That’s right - intentional crashes and collisions. This was 1938, and Evel Knievel wouldn’t even be born for another two months! A total of $500 was awarded to winners of those events, and the “Black Hills Motor Classic” was born. Leading up to the event, Pappy Hoel could be found riding around the Black Hills with his Shetland pony, “Topsy”, promoting the event. He did a fine job indeed, as each year the number of participants and spectators continued to double in size.
The Granddaddy of Bike Rallies
Today, the Sturgis Rally draws massive numbers, the high mark being the 75th anniversary in 2005, in which 739,000 people attended. Each year, the whole week of the rally is packed full of vendors, big-name concerts, races and other unique events. The event has become the economic backbone for the city of Sturgis, accounting for 95% of the town’s annual revenue, as well as bringing in $800 million in overall revenue for the Black Hills area. There’s a reason this is “the granddaddy” of all bike rallies.
Be sure to stop in to Tom’s T’s for your Official Sturgis Rally apparel and accessories, and ask about local must-see attractions and scenic rides!
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