Harley-Davidson and the city of Sturgis, S.D., have entered into an exclusive deal that will make Harley the official motorcycle of the world’s largest motorcycle rally for the next 75 years.
The agreement will include the construction of a permanent plaza on Sturgis’ Main Street, which will host events, concerts and weddings, year-round, and be a centerpiece to the annual bike rally the town has hosted since the 1930s.
The plaza will be built at the corner of Main and Second, in downtown Sturgis, about two blocks from the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame, using bricks removed from Harley’s Milwaukee headquarters -- one from a 100-year-old former factory building, one from the Harley-Davidson Museum, and more from Harley’s home turf motorcycle-only parking area.
The open-air pavilion will have ample motorcycle parking and allow visitors to take their pictures with the word “Sturgis,” spelled out in stones set in the hills behind the town, above their heads.
No price or cost-sharing details of the construction were made available.
The bricks will be delivered to Sturgis, naturally enough, on Harleys, and the plaza will be ready when this year’s rally starts on Aug. 1.
“Harley-Davidson riders have attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally for decades,” Harley president and COO Matt Levatich said in a statement before making the Thursday morning announcement in Milwaukee. “This new agreement will help fuel many more years of freedom, independence and rebellion for this iconic gathering.”
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is an annual August event held in South Dakota’s Black Hills, not far from famed Mt. Rushmore.
Attendance has run as high as 633,000, in 2000. Last year, something like 442,200 riders, rockers, rowdies and enthusiasts crowded the narrow Sturgis streets for six days of riding, races, rallies, exhibitions, concerts, bike shows and sales of motorcycle lifestyle clothing, accessories and paraphernalia.
The rally returns annual proceeds of more than $800 million to the small town, population 6,627.
“For decades, Harley-Davidson has been the motorcycle of choice for Sturgis,” town Mayor Mark Carstensen said in a statement. “Today it gives me great pleasure to solidify its importance by making it the official motorcycle of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.”
Although Harley is America’s bestselling motorcycle, and has been the unofficial bike of Sturgis for many years, the annual rally has its roots in the 1936 purchase of an Indian Motorcycle franchise in Sturgis by Clarence “Pappy” Hoel. Pappy formed the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club. Two years later, the first official rally, featuring nine riders, was held.
It has continued since, missing only one year, during World War II, due to gas rationing. Pappy died in 1989.