|Just the word "Sturgis" captures
the attention and imagination of the entire world of motorcycles.
It was in 1936 that a small group of motorcycle enthusiasts
founded the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club with the simply
stated goal to ""promote motorcycle racing and
touring." History has proven their dedication and accomplishments.
Early in 1937 the Jackpine Gypsies joined the American Motorcycle
Association and began holding racing events at the city's
half-mile dirt track. But, 1938 turned out to be the historic
year. That was when the City of Sturgis joined forces with
the Jackpine Gypsies and the first "Rally" was
held over a three day period in August, highlighted by the
Jackpine Gypsies Championship Half-Mile Race. 2008 marks
the 70th Anniversary of that Jackpine Gypsy Championship
race. Since that race untold numbers of Americans from every
state in the land and people around the world have come
to Sturgis in search of something. I think it was to be
part of a special American Celebration that is the Jackpine
I wonder if any of
those 200 or so people who attended the races
could have known or imagined that the millions
of souls from around the world would follow in
their tracks. This is true Americana
at its best.
Sturgis has a strong racing history. Fort Meade
put Sturgis on the map in the 1870's when they
stationed a Calvary troop here. Naturally horse
racing among the troops and the locals began to
take place By the late 1890's Sturgis had a half-mile
horse track laid out along Bear Butte Creek with
the hillside serving as the bleachers, but the
track was washed away during one of the city's
early floods. From 1900 through 1910, the City
of Sturgis did its racing on Main Street. Horse
racing was popular as were recovery races. Even
"Fat Man" racing was taking place on
Main Street with a first prize of $5.00 and $2.50
for second. That all changed in 1911 when the
City of Sturgis built a half-mile dirt track with
grandstand and stables on a hill outside of city
limits. The Sturgis track flourished with horse
racing as did other famous places like Coney Island
during this Victorian era. After WWI, motorized
vehicles became the rage and the track was modified.
The track's corners were banked allowing automobile
and motorcycle racing to take over and thrive
during the roaring 20's. Times were good. Then
the stock market crash of 1929 brought a shock
to the folk and a great depression to America.
The future of Sturgis and its half-mile track
like most of America, was bleak and uncertain
during the hard times called the thirties.
| But, then came the
Jackpine Gypsies. In 1938 the Jackpine Gypsies
with the city's help returned tHalf-Mile racing
to Sturgis and launched it toward it's ultimate
destination with history.
The first champion 70 years ago was "Smiling"
Johnny Speigelhoff riding a Harley-Davidson. Johnny
will be honored this year by his induction into
the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame on August
6th. Johnny was just the first of many champions
who would come to compete at Gypsy racing events
held at the half-mile track in Sturgis. The Gypsies
own Neil Hultman has been a member in good standing
since 1947. He remembers the fifties as a "golden
age" of Jackpine Gypsy racing when legendary
champions like Al Nelson, Bill Tuman, Chuck Basney,
John Tindall, Bobby Hill, Dick Mann and Dick Klamfoth
raced to win in sturgis. Many more have come through
the decades since then. Neil Hultman during his
61 years with the club has truly done and seen
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