71st Annual Sturgis Rally
If you’ve ever been around motorcycles or bikers, you’re probably familiar with Sturgis. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is held annually in Sturgis, South Dakota, ever since the first meeting back in the summer of 1938. It has been held there every year except during WWII because of gasoline rationing.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was founded by ‘Jackpine Gypsies’ motorcycle club , who still own and operate the tracks, hillclimb, and field areas where the rally is centered. The rally was created to promote racing and motorcycle stunts. In the beginning there were very few spectators and just a few racers over a 2-day event.
Even with the low number of visitors the first year, it was considered a great success, so an even larger event was planned for the following year. By the 1960′s, the number of visitors grew to around 1,000 covering a 5-day long event. It has now grown into an official 7-day event, August 8th thru the 14th in 2011, but the bikes in the Black Hills area and side-events last for about 14-days.
From the 1980′s on, the Sturgis Rally took off; sporting some 25,000 to 30,000 visitors. In the early 80′s it became clear that the Sturgis Rally was becoming a widespread and lasting success. By 1989, numbers exceeded 100,000 visitors. Over the last couple of years there have been over half a million visitors each year from all over the county and even the world, with the peak of 754,844 in 2000, the 60th event (not quite sure how they came to that exact number).
For two weeks you hear the roar of motorcycles 24 hours a day in the Black Hills. And you see bikes and riders of all kinds everywhere… fun, interesting, unusual and sometimes down right crazy!
It is estimated that 95% of the town of Sturgis, South Dakota’s revenues come from the rally during that two-week period. The rally is held during the first or second week in August. There are many people in Sturgis and a large surrounding area who move out of their homes and rent them out for a sizeable sum. There are also activities in surrounding towns, even across state lines in Sundance, Wyoming, like ‘burn out’ and one of many wet T-shirt contests.
In recent years, the revitalization of motorcycling and retired babyboomers as well as new fans of the old rallies have led to increased attendance of classic rallies such as Sturgis.
The Sturgis Rally is a fun but wild time including motorcycle events and competition, great food, lots of drinking, concerts and a lot of partying ! One of the locals told me it was the best sex-education any kid could have, when she was young. (Not sure that is the best advertisement, but probably an honest assessment!)
Rally entertainment this year included Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard, George Thorogood and Leon Russell to name just a few…
The official rally ends with a huge outdoor concert at the Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground. (And yes… being voted Miss Buffalo Chip out here is actually a huge honor and something young girls strive for!)
This was my (our) first rally and what stood out to me more than anything was the age of the participants. Although there are participants from all ‘adult’ age groups, and some teens, the ‘majority’ of the rally folk that I saw, except at the concerts and ‘Buffalo Chip Girlie’ events, where a lot more young people turned out, were aging baby-boomers… some even with their dogs tethered in their sidecars; many riding great distances just to get to Sturgis. Rallies, huge concerts and the open road seem to be in the blood of that generation and will be until the last baby-boomer goes to the big rally in the sky.
This is us at the rally…
Ask Marion~ - h/t to Tim Algier and the UCLA Shutterbug for 2011 Photos
Special Report: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (R-Rated)