This is footage from a 5 part series of shows I color graded for the Smithsonian Channel called America Wild & Wacky. This episode is called "America Wild & Wacky - Sturgis" and covers the yearly motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Sturgis is small town of about 7,000 people that swells to over half a million once a year for this week long motorcycle rally.
The first rally was held on August 14, 1938, by the "Jackpine Gypsies" motorcycle club who still own and operate the tracks where the rally is centered. The first event was called the "Black Hills Classic" and consisted of a single race with nine participants and a small audience. The founder is generally considered to be Clarence "Pappy" Hoel. He purchased an Indian Motorcycle franchise in Sturgis in 1936 and formed the "Jackpine Gypsies" that same year.
The focus of a motorcycle rally was originally racing and stunts. In 1961, the rally was expanded to include the Hillclimb and Motocross races. This could include half-mile track racing (the first year in Sturgis, there were 19 participants), intentional board wall crashes, ramp jumps and head-on collisions with automobiles.
The Sturgis Rally has been held every year, with exceptions during World War II. For instance, in 1942, the event was not held due to gasoline rationing. In recent years, the revitalization of motorcycling and new fans of the old rallies have led to increased attendance of classic rallies such as Sturgis. Attendance has been estimated from 514,951 to almost 800,000 people. Many of the new attendees of the Sturgis Rally are families, bringing their children and driving trailers and campers to the rally.