Casinos and flashing lights are definitely the draw, but in the summer, the Old West environment keeps both adults and children entertained. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, there are gunfights in the streets; Wild Bill Hickok is killed several times a day; and Jack McCall, his killer, is tried for his murder almost as often. It’s all fun and the historic re-enactments add to the Wild West atmosphere of the community.
The reenactment of the Shooting of Wild Bill Hickok is held in Saloon No. 10 (657 Main St., Tues.–Sun. 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m., free).
Everyone loves a good Gunslinger Shootout (2 p.m. in front of Four Aces Casino, 531 Main St.; 4 p.m. in front of the Celebrity Hotel, 629 Main St.; 6 p.m. in front of the Franklin Hotel, 709 Main St.; free), especially the kids.
The Trial of Jack McCall (Masonic Temple, 715 Main St., 8 p.m., adult $5, child $3) mixes a lot of historical facts with a lot of fun and audience-participation-oriented fiction.
For additional information on the reenactments and the trial, call the Chamber of Commerce (605/578-1876 or 800/999-1876).
Something is always going on in Deadwood. One of the best local events is the Days of ’76 Rodeo, which takes place in late July and which was selected by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association as the Midsize Rodeo of the year from 2004 to 2008.
Kool Deadwood Nites is a late-August event that brings classic cars to town. With live music concerts of ’50s- and ’60s-era music, street dances, and a classic car parade, it’s a popular family-oriented weekend.
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
In 1938, nine Sturgis motorcyclists and their families got together for the first Black Hills Motor Classic and camped on the lawn belonging to one of the participants. Today, approximately 400,000–500,000 bikers converge annually on the Black Hills the first full week August (the first Saturday of the month and the subsequent week) and fill every campground, hotel, and motel in the Northern and Central Hills.
Thousands of bikes line the streets of Sturgis. Bikers and non-bikers alike shuffle along the sidewalks admiring paint jobs, leather work, gleaming chrome, and each other. Wild hats, bikinis, leather, and not much else adorn more than a few of the celebrants. Beautiful young women, hired by the large motorcycle companies, stroll by in branded leathers and little else. Tattoos and piercings, food on a stick, Rally t-shirts, and beer are the purchases of choice. It’s crowded. It’s noisy. It’s a party. And for the most part, it’s a jovial, fun-loving, and friendly crowd.
There are races and poker runs and daily rides into the hills. Every motorcycle manufacturer in the world is there from the smallest custom bike creator to Harley Davidson. At night, there are world-class concerts, and the parties lean towards the raucous. It’s the biggest event in South Dakota, doubling the population of the state for about 10 days. Some of the venues that are synonymous with or unique to Sturgis include the following:
The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum (999 Main St., 605/347-2001, www.sturgismuseum.com, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., $5) has a great collection of vintage motorcycles dating back to the early 1900s and a hall of fame to honor those who have contributed to the sport of motorcycling.
The Buffalo Chip Campground (20622 131st Ave., 605/347-9000, www.buffalochip.com) is a small city unto itself about five miles east of Sturgis. Famous for both its campground and concerts, the Chip provides several different on-site dining options, tent camping, RV camping, cabin camping, two shower houses, and plenty of restrooms. Concerts in the past have included acts like Toby Keith, Aerosmith, and George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Weekly passes or daily admissions are available; both include camping and concerts.
The Full Throttle Saloon (12997 Hwy. 34, 605/423-4584, www.fullthrottlesaloon.com) bills itself as the world’s largest biker bar. With 100 beautiful and scantily clad female bartenders and 200 other employees on hand for the rally, it may well be true. This huge venue hosts concerts and contests and provides rental cabins on its grounds. It also leans towards an R rating.
The Knuckle Saloon (931 First St., 605/347-0106, www.theknuckle.com) is filled with Sturgis memorabilia and antiques from the town’s early days. With the longest bar in town, live music, poker and pool tournaments, it’s the hottest spot downtown.
The best information about the rally, including lodging, and schedules of events can be found at www.sturgismotorcyclerally.com, a website created by the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce (2040 Junction Ave., 605/347-2556, www.sturgis-sd.org).
© Laural A. Bidwell from Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills, 1st Edition