What is Sturgis?

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  • Written By: O. Wallace
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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The city of Sturgis is located at the base of South Dakota’s Black Hills, on the western edge of the state. Founded in August 1876, Sturgis was originally built to service the needs of the Seventh Cavalry, based at neighboring Fort Meade. Sturgis was named for Major Samuel D. Sturgis, who was based at the fort, but is also sometimes known as the “Key City of the Black Hills” and the “City of Riders.”

Although Sturgis is rich in history and close to many historic monuments and national parks, the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is its most well known attraction. The annual rally swells its 6,442 (2000) population 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 well as Custer State Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Crazy Horse Memorial, Devils Tower National Monument and Centennial Trail. Bear Butte State Park is also an attraction, as well as the Black Hills National Cemetery. During the winter, there’s snowmobiling and skiing nearby.


There’s no denying it — the annually Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is they city’s main bread and butter. The rally, which was created by Pappy Hoel and the original members of the Jackpine Gypsies, was first held on 14 August 1938, and has been held the first week after the first full weekend in August nearly every year since. It is such a big event for the city that there is a City of Sturgis Rally Department which plans for the rally year-round. The rally puts the city’s infrastructure into overdrive to pick up the approximately 585 tons (530,703 kg) of garbage generated during the week, as well as providing extra police protection (324 parking tickets were issued in 2006), emergency medical care, etc.

Although it is a big production for Sturgis, taxable sales generated by temporary vendors was 12.38 million US Dollars (USD) in 2006, making it highly profitable. The city took in over 256,000 USD in tax revenues, not to mention the state revenues earned during the week of the rally.

There’s something for nearly everyone at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally: concerts, racing, beauty concerts, motorcycle association and club meetings, and even a Pickle Lickin’ contest sponsored by the World Pickle Lickin’ Federation. For those who love scenic motoring, shopping and showing off their tricked-out motorcycles, Sturgis is a highly anticipated annual 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 anytime of the year. Sturgis is accessible by the Sturgis Airport, or the Rapid City Regional Airport by plane, or off interstate 90 by car.


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Thank you! I've been looking on the Web for a good explanation of what Sturgis is, and this article was informative and well written. I got all my answers.

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