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History of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Started by Shades, August 04, 2021, 08:49:54 PM

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The first rally was held by Indian Motorcycle riders on August 14, 1938, by the Jackpine Gypsies motorcycle club.[5] The club still owns and operates the tracks, hillclimb, and field areas where the rally is centered. The first event was called the "Black Hills Classic" and consisted of a single race with nine participants and a small audience. The founder was Clarence "Pappy" Hoel. He purchased an Indian motorcycle franchise in Sturgis in 1936 and formed the Jackpine Gypsies that same year.[5] The Jackpine Gypsies were inducted to the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1997. Hoel was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame the following year.

The focus of a motorcycle rally was originally racing and stunts. In 1961, the rally was expanded to include the Hillclimb and Motocross races. This could include half-mile track racing (the first year in Sturgis, there were 19 participants), intentional board wall crashes, ramp jumps and head-on collisions with automobiles.

The Sturgis Rally has been held every year, with exceptions during World War II. For instance, from 1942 to 1944, the event was not held due to gasoline rationing.

Originally the rally was a two-day event.

Through the 1970s and early 1980s, many attendees camped in City Park. When a record 40,000 visitors arrived in Sturgis in 1980, local residents became concerned with the behavior of these attendees.[ In 1982, a referendum was presented to the city asking them to no longer provide municipal services such as parking on Main Street, law enforcement and allowing camping in City Park. City attorney Dale Hansen advised that any vote would be non-binding and could not stop the rally because the motorcycle rally is sponsored by private groups.[ Although the referendum was defeated 1,454 to 826,[13] the City of Sturgis followed the mayor's committee recommendation to prohibit camping in City Park and eliminate downtown street vendors.

To serve the needs of future rally attendees, the Buffalo Chip Campground was established outside of town. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally venue first hosted campers in 1982. Over the years, the venue evolved to include vendors, campsites, cabins and stages, becoming one of the biggest entertainment hubs of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

For many years, the rally was a seven-day event starting on a Monday during the first full week of August.

In 1987 the Buffalo Chip expanded its Sturgis Motorcycle Rally entertainment to the current 10-day and nine-night format. Bands that performed July 31 through August 9 included Black Oak Arkansas, Country Joe McDonald, Canned Heat, Mitch Ryder, among others.

In October 2016, the city of Sturgis expanded the city's dates to match the 10-day format and have the rally start on the Friday before the first full week of August and end on the second Sunday. In 2017, the Rally became a 10-day event starting on the first Friday in August.

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