Spreading Our Wings: How The Sturgis Rally Got Its Start
Every year the town of Sturges South Dakota fills with the sound of thunder. Bikers from all over the nation come to party and ride, and party some more.
So how did this all get started?
It began in 1938 with a group of Indian Motorcycle riders and was originally held for stunts and races.
The event was organized by the town’s motorcycle club called the Jackpine Gypsies who bought and developed large tracks, hill climbs, and field areas where the rally would be held. (Sturges Website).
According to the Sturges Website, it was “Pappy” Hoel who Founder of the Sturgis Rally! Apparently, he bought a franchise of the Indian Motorcycle Company (a manufacturer of motorcycles in North Carolina) in Sturgis in 1936. The Jackpine Gypsies were for publicity and to drum up business.
At first, the Sturgis motorcycle rally focused on racing and stunts. It was a test of the participant’s various riding skills.
In the 1960s, the rally action expanded with hill climbs and motocross and it was still all about the man and his machine.
Audiences saw more daredevil maneuvers like the half-mile track racing, ramp jumps, head-on automobile crashes and board wall crashes, the reasons for the tremendous popularity of the event today. (Sturges Website).
The only time that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was not held was in 1942, at the height of World War II.
Since then it has had an average attendance of 500,000 people. At times the event has seen up to and even over 700,000.
For most the rally is about watching bands, drinking, food, and riding their bikes all over South Dakota and Wyoming.
And then more drinking.