Sturgis Bike Rally History

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Sturgis Bike Rally History

Started in 1938 by Clarence “Pappy” Hoel, the Sturgis, South Dakota, bike rally has grown from a handful of riders and spectators to a week-long gathering attracting a half million visitors. Read More

  • The first Sturgis bike rally was held on August 14, 1938.
  • Rally founder, “Pappy” Hoel, started the event after purchasing a motorcycle franchise and beginning the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club.
  • Rally length has grown from one day to one week.
  • Today, more than a half million people attend the gathering every year.


  • Clarence “Pappy” Hoel buys an Indian Motorcycle Franchise in Sturgis, South Dakota, and forms the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club which is still going strong today.


  • Jackpine Gypsies receive an official American Motorcycle Association (AMA) charter.

August 14, 1938

  • Sturgis bike rally tradition begins. Known as the Black Hills Motor Classic, this first Sturgis motorcycle rally’s main event is a half-mile race on a dirt track, comprising 9 contestants and a group of 200 onlookers. The initial focus of the rally is racing and stunts.


  • The Sturgis rally is cancelled due to gas rationing in support of WWII efforts.


  • Hill climbs and Motocross races are added to the event.


  • City officials block off one section of Main Street to accommodate motorcycle parking for the 3-day rally.


  • Due to its popularity, the Sturgis Rally lengthens to a 5-day event.


  • The length of the Sturgis rally is once again stretched, this time to its present 7-day duration.


  • The City of Sturgis, SD begins licensing temporary vendors for the gathering.


  • In just 9 years since temporary vendor licensing, the vendor list grows from 9 to 117.


  • “Pappy” Hoel passes away, 51 years after the initial rally.


  • Rally attendance reaches 400,000.


  • Celebrities featured at the rally include former NBA player, Dennis Rodman.


  • Attendance reaches upwards of 600,000.


  • The City of Sturgis designates an entire department to rally promotion and organization.

Present Day

Current rally attendance numbers reach well over a half million people, with 800 temporary licensed vendors descending on the small town during the gathering. Events include half-mile races, hill climbs, short-track races, area attraction tours, music and live entertainment and much more.