Tracing the history and popularity of the Sturgis Rally
STURGIS S.D. — The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has a rich history of bikes, music and parties. But not many may know how and where it all began and why the Rally has exploded in popularity.
Historians say the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, now in its 79th year, is the cross section of the American dream and freedom on the open road.
The Rally was spearheaded by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club in 1938. Pappy Hoel, the owner of the Indian Motorcycle dealership in Sturgis kicked off the first rally.
“He invited a bunch of friends to come to town, work on their bikes, and then do a race at the end of the week,” said Emma Garvin, the Executive Director of the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. “It was a potluck type of event, there was gospel music and maybe 50 people the first year.”
From there as the Rally spread through word of mouth and the press, it began to grow.
“It’s ten days a year that they can step out of who they are day to day, and do whatever they want for a couple of days,” Garvin said.
Additionally, Sears and Roebuck started selling motorcycles out of its catalog in the thick of segregation. The bikes were available to everyone, no matter their race or economic status. Historians say this introduced millions more to bike culture.
They also say the rally has grown because of scenic rides in the Black Hills and the close-knit motorcycle industry.
“The motorcycle lifestyle is large, but the core motorcycle group of people is rather small,” Garvin said. “That’s the best part, when you talk to people about the rally they say ‘Oh yeah I connect with people from around the world.'”
Garvin encourages people in the Black Hills for the rally to visit the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and explore the history of the event.
For the 75th Rally, 750,000 bikers flocked to the Hills. And with the 80th coming up next year, the Rally doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.