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Little Known Facts and Stats About Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Sturgis sign on the back of a motorcycle

Riding a motorcycle has always been an exhilarating way to see a new place, but that’s only part of the story: motorcycles also bring out the best in people.

In the small town of Sturgis, South Dakota, that spirit is taken to the next level with the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which draws crowds of bikers and non-bikers from around the world.

Sturgis is a biker’s equivalent to the Grand Canyon: it’s the one destination almost every motorcyclist wants to ride to at some point. To be honest, it’s kind of like the Beatles, Elvis, and the Grand Canyon all rolled into one.

It’s the ultimate destination for motorcycle enthusiasts.

Where is Sturgis?

Sturgis is a city in Meade County, South Dakota, United States. It is the county seat of Meade County and is named after General Samuel D. Sturgis.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is not just a biker rally but a regional celebration. It draws over 500,000 people on average to the small town of Sturgis each year. The event makes the town the fourth largest city in the state and has grown to be more than a two-week event.

The town itself has a rich history and offers a variety of shops, restaurants, and museums for visitors to explore.

What is the history of Sturgis?

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is an annual biker rally held every August in Sturgis, South Dakota, USA. It was first called the "Black Hills Classic" and later, the "Sturgis-Black Hills Rally.” It has also been called the "World's Greatest Motorcycle Rally."

What is Sturgis Known For?

The event has become an iconic part of motorcycle culture. Sturgis is also known for its location in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, which is known for its stunning natural beauty and historical landmarks such as Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial.

Some popular activities include:

  • stunt shows
  • charity rides
  • live entertainment
  • fantastic live music
  • many vendors and concessions
  • numerous spectator competitions (drag racing, ATV racing, etc.)

As the largest motorcycle rally in the world, there are plenty of interesting facts to explore. Here are nineteen little-known facts about the infamous motorcycle rally.

1803

1803 was the year that the United States annexed the area that is now South Dakota because of the Louisiana Purchase. Before then, the Spanish had claimed the land as their own in 1762, following the French, who had explored the area in the 1740s.

1878

1878 is the year Sturgis was founded. Back then, it was called Scooptown because many of the town's inhabitants "scooped up" their salaries from nearby Fort Meade.

Later, the town was renamed to commemorate the Civil War Union General Samuel D. Sturgis.

1907

The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame is from 1907. You can see an extensive collection of bikes from America and around the world at the museum, plus all sorts of artifacts documenting the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally’s history.

1938

When did the Sturgis bike rally start? The first “rally” was initially staged on August 14, 1938, as a single-day event.

Known as the Black Hills Motor Classic, it began as a race featuring nine participants and a small audience and a few stunts performed by local motorcyclists. Then everyone had a beer and went home.

1940

The first official rally T-shirt was sold in 1940 and featured an image of a motorcycle and the words "Black Hills Motor Classic".

2023

You can have a commemorative brick placed in Sturgis as part of the Sturgis Brick Project. A 4" by 8" brick with four lines of text and a maximum of 20 characters per line costs $105, and an 8" by 8" brick with a max of 7 lines of text and 20 characters max per line costs $180. 

Act fast because these bricks are running low! New ones are installed bi-annually,

#1

The Devil's Tower was the first United States National Monument. President Teddy Roosevelt designated it in September 1906. The monument takes up a collective 1,347 acres. About 400,000 people visit Devils Tower, and 1% climb it, mostly with traditional climbing methods.

The tower is 867 feet from the summit to the base. Famously, the Tower played a pivotal role in and was the climax of the 1977 Steven Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The Tower is a one hour and 15-minute ride away for those looking to extend their Sturgis adventure.

49

In 2021, South Dakota became the 49th state to receive a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument. It is located in Sturgis, near the Black Hills National Cemetery. The project cost approximately $48,000.

52

Fifty-two miles from the famed Sturgis Buffalo Chip to Mount Rushmore National Park is roughly the number of miles. This is one of the many great ride maps you can use for an exciting day trip or try the Harley-Davidson® Ride Planner.

Other routes will take you to the Devil's Tower, Spearfish Canyon, Needles and Crazy Horse Memorial, Bear Butte, and the Badlands.

75

Seventy-five represents the number of bricks (74 from Harley-Davidson’s Milwaukee headquarters and 1 from the Harley-Davidson Museum) integrated into the Harley-Davidson Rally Point.

This permanent space is located at the corner of Main St. and Harley-Davidson Way and will serve as a hub for both rally riders and Sturgis citizens.

83

2023 marks the 83rd rally taking place August 5-14, 2023. Organizing is already underway with concert headliners to be announced. It will undoubtedly include a mix of local bands and national headliners like Kid Rock.

You can start making reservations at campgrounds, RV parks, private rental homes, hotels, motels, and inns.

7,020

What is the population of Sturgis, South Dakota? The population estimate of Sturgis in 2020 was 7,020, according to the U.S. Census. This represents an estimated population growth of 5.9% from 6,627 in 2010.

The area's original inhabitants were the Lakota Indians, who Europeans and later Americans displaced.

700,000

How many bikers go to Sturgis each year? The rally's attendance has steadily increased, from 3,000 in 1940 to over 700,000 in 2015.

$40

If you want to get married at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, all you need is $40 in cash or traveler's checks and ID. And, of course, both applicants must be present. So, if you’re riding two-up on your way to Sturgis, here are some safety tips for riding with a passenger.

$1 million

The event generates over $1 million in sales tax revenue for the state of South Dakota each year. 2022′s total was down 14 percent compared to the 2021 total of $1.79 million.

$800 million

The city of Sturgis profits significantly from the rally, with revenue from the event estimated at $800 million annually brought each year by Rally attendees, according to South Dakota’s Department of Tourism.

35-MPH

The speed limit around the outskirts of town near attractions like the Full Throttle and Buffalo Chip can be 35-MPH. With congestion from the rally, those speeds can be even lower, so make sure you’re comfortable riding at low speeds

August 2-11, 2024 – 84th Anniversary

Make your calendars now because if you can’t make the Rally in 2023, there’s always the rally in 2024.

August 1-10, 2025 - 85th Anniversary

And if you can’t make the rally in 2024, then there’s always the one in 2025, which will surely be an unforgettable experience as the rally celebrates its 85th anniversary!

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