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How the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Works


Sturgis Motorcycle Rally History
This undated photo shows Neil Hultman riding a motorcycle with a sidecar in Sturgis, S.D. Hultman is the second-oldest surviving member of the Jackpine Gypsies, the motorcycle club that started what is now the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
This undated photo shows Neil Hultman riding a motorcycle with a sidecar in Sturgis, S.D. Hultman is the second-oldest surviving member of the Jackpine Gypsies, the motorcycle club that started what is now the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
AP Photo/Sturgis Motorcycle Museum

In Sturgis, S.D., on August 14, 1938, a group of nine men raced their motorcycles with a small group of people watching. The bikers were known as the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club which later organized the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally along with a fellow member and owner of the Indian Motorcycle Shop, J.C. "Pappy" Hoel. Pappy Hoel worked for his family's ice business before buying a motorcycle franchise and becoming one of the most successful dealers in South Dakota [source: Hoel Motors]. Since then, the rally has continued every year since that first race in 1938 -- with the exception of two years during World War II. Now, seven decades after the first rally, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is still going strong and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

An event that started out as a small group of racers has turned into the largest motorcycle gathering in the world. All types of motorcycles are represented at the rally as well as all different types of people. In 1960 the attendance of the rally topped only 800 people and in 1970 that number grew to 2,000. The Rally mentions in its official guidebook that after 1970 the attendance of the weeklong event grew exponentially. In the year 2000 about 550,000 people attended the rally [source: The Sturgis Rally Guide Book]. Of course, Daytona Beach, Fla., is infamous for its Bike Week event, but one of the things that makes the attendance of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally so exceptional is that the city of Sturgis normally only has a population of about 6,000 people [source: City-Data.com]. In addition to the city of Sturgis' small population, the entire state of South Dakota nearly doubles its population when the rally bikers show up each year.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally keeps its traditional racing roots by offering a half-mile (.8-kilometer) motorcycle race similar to Hoel's first race. Other races, competitions, concerts and far more entertainment than the original founders ever planned have been added, too.


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