What’s Sturgis?

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Sturgis, South Dakota is a historic city located at the base of the Black Hills. It is famous for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which attracts nearly half a million visitors. The city also offers nearby attractions such as Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park. The rally generates significant revenue for the city, but also strains its infrastructure. Sturgis has something for everyone, including concerts, races, and beauty shows. The summers are hot, while the winters are cold, and visitors can reach the city by plane or car.

The city of Sturgis is located at the base of the Black Hills of South Dakota on the western border of the state. Established in August 1876, Sturgis was originally built to serve the needs of the Seventh Cavalry, based at nearby Fort Meade. Sturgis is named after Major Samuel D. Sturgis, who was based at the fort, but is also sometimes known as the “Key Town of the Black Hills” and the “City of Knights.”

While Sturgis is steeped in history and close to many historic landmarks and national parks, the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is its best-known attraction. The annual gathering increases its population of 6,442 (2000) to nearly half a million. If you’re not interested in motorcycles, Sturgis is a great place to stop when you’re in the area. mt. Rushmore is nearby, as are Custer State Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Crazy Horse Memorial, Devils Tower National Monument and the Centennial Trail. Bear Butte State Park is also an attraction, as is Black Hills National Cemetery. During the winter, there is snowmobiling and skiing nearby.

There’s no denying it: The annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is the town’s main bread and butter. The meet, created by Pappy Hoel and the original members of the Jackpine Gypsies, was first held on August 14, 1938, and has been held the first week after the first full weekend in August nearly every year since. It’s such a big event for the city that there is a City of Sturgis Rally Department that plans to rally year round. The rally strains the city’s infrastructure to collect the approximately 585 tons (530,703 kg) of waste generated during the week, as well as providing additional police protection (324 parking tickets were issued in 2006), emergency, etc.

While this is a large production for Sturgis, taxable sales generated by temporary sellers were $12.38 million (USD) in 2006, making it highly profitable. The city brought in more than $256,000 in tax revenue, not to mention state revenue earned during the week of the rally.

There is something for almost everyone at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally: concerts, races, beauty shows, motorcycle associations and club meetings, and even a Pickle Lickin’ contest sponsored by the World Pickle Lickin’ Federation. For those who enjoy scenic motoring, shopping, and showing off their souped-up motorcycles, Sturgis is a highly anticipated year-round destination.

Summers are hot in Sturgis: August highs average 85.1° F (29.5° C), but winters are frigid. January high temperatures average 33.8°F (1°C), and visitors can expect erratic weather any time of year. Sturgis can be reached from Sturgis Airport, Rapid City Regional Airport by plane, or Highway 90 by car.

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