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Sturgis bike rally-some history
August 9, 2010 at 9:19 pm #4161Jeff in KentuckyParticipant
From a longer article by NBC, msnbc.com and news services
STURGIS, S.D. —The world’s largest motorcycle rally is an eclectic mix of people flooding this normally sleepy town, for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The six-day event officially kicks off Monday.
More than 700 vendors are selling everything from tattoos to roasted turkey legs.
The rally began in 1938, organized by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club as a venue for racing and stunts, and continued every year except for two during World War II. Officials estimate this year’s attendance at between 500,000 and 750,000 people, which would eclipse the 633,000 people who showed up for the 60th anniversary rally. The 50th drew 400,000 attendees.
Don Vodden, 92, of Eldon, Mo., said he’s the last surviving member of the Jackpine Gypsies and never imagined the rally would grow so large. He raced against eight other riders in that first flat-track event in 1938, which featured two riders on Harley-Davidsons, while he and the others campaigned Indian motorcycles.
“I won $65 on a $300 motorcycle,” said Vodden, who has attended most of the rallies since then.
Along with Bob Dylan, a folk music icon, and Ozzy Osbourne, a heavy metal pioneer, other scheduled music acts include Kid Rock, Motley Crue and ZZ Top.
A $150,000 custom-built bike was a rarity a decade ago, but now the flashy choppers are common, said Ben Lopez, who moved to Sturgis from California about 20 years ago after a stint in the Air Force.
Today’s hardcore rally-goer is grayer and better behaved than when Sturgis police Chief Jim Bush began patrolling in 1978. The department made about 1,500 arrests back then, but last year “had contact with about 500 people — and 300 of those were for parking tickets,” Bush said.
Drugs, drunkenness and nudity have dwindled, he said.
“There used to be a lot more young, single males … who were involved in outlandish activity,” Bush said. “Now they’ve reached the more middle-age bracket in life, and probably as responsible as they’re ever going to be, and successful as they are ever going to be, riding a $25,000-plus toy.”
Harley-Davidsons rule the rally but motorcycles of nearly every make are represented. Parked next to Lopez’s Harley was a vintage lime green Honda scooter with a Kansas license plate that was photographed as much as the meanest of bikes along Main Street.
“Ten years ago, somebody would have probably run over that,” he said.
The Hells Angels motorcycle club even have a booth. “We’re not out here selling drugs and killing people,” said Mike Hutton, 41, of Riverside, Calif. “We’re selling shirts and calendars.” Proceeds help fund motorcycle runs, Hutton said. “Gas is not cheap these days,” he said.
Steve Dille, 53, of Denver first attended the rally in 1988, riding a Harley-Davidson — and never would have considered anything else. This year, he and his 17-year-old son, Keaton, rode in on Honda Goldwings.
“It’s a little more sanitized now,” he said. “A lot more police and a lot less bike gangs. It was a lot rowdier back in the day.”August 17, 2010 at 11:20 pm #28125skippersusieParticipant
Thanks Jeff… nice article. I grew up hearing about the legend of Sturgis, hoping to get there someday myself now that I am finally on 2 wheels. There is just something about the cycle community that I am really attracted to. I am finding that the folks around here appreciate my old Virago as much if not more than some of the newer H-Ds. When an oldschool guy with a long gray beard and hair on a knuklehead nods and smiles… I feel good.
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