Sturgis 2020 Event Guide

The 80th Annual Sturgis Rally will literally be like none other and likely better in the open freedom fields of South Dakota 

Words by Kali Kotoski     

Photos by Thunder Press, Sturgis Buffalo Chip and City of Sturgis archives

The Rally is on and you are getting ready to make the voyage. You got clothes, extra oil, hand sanitizer and hopefully masks to ensure that your health – and that of others – is protected. But as they say, you got to take responsibility into you own hands, and by having the rally, the City of Sturgis trusts you. Good thing we will all be partying outside and engaging in soul-satisfying wind therapy. 

When the first rally kicked off 1938, none of the original attendees could have predicted the circumstances we now find ourselves in. But hell, those folks had endured the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu of 1918, 1919 and 1920, and saved the world from Germany and were gearing up to do it again! So, ride safe and come celebrate another one for the books.

Editor’s note: This is an unofficial calendar of events and things are subject to change. To find if there are changes, get out there and figure it out for yourself! 

The City of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 

While the City of Sturgis has cancelled the majority of its City-sponsored events like parades, opening ceremonies, the B1 flyover and live music at the Harley-Davidson Rally Point to reduce overcrowding, there will still be plenty of things to do and see. The City announced that all staff will have an ample pool of Personal Protective Equipment at the ready and is encouraging all vendors to follow CDC and local guidelines, while also saying vendors can tap into the pandemic-fighting gear to help protect their employees. We applaud that initiative here at Thunder Press and urge anyone visiting the downtown area to give extra attention to the vendors (especially the small businesses) and buy, buy, buy! We got to keep our favorite companies around!

Mayor’s Ride

On August 10, the city will be putting on its 18th Annual Mayor’s Ride where bikers follow Mark Carstensen through the Black Hills, by Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. The ride will conclude at the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park where the Mayor will give a presentation. While we all know the decision to have the rally came down to a city council vote, wouldn’t doubt some solid leadership helped keep the rally on track. All proceeds of the ride will go to local emergency services. Register at https://www.sturgismotorcyclerally.com//mayor-ride.

Ride with a Local 

Nobody knows the best riding around Sturgis better than the bikers that call the city their home. On August 7th, 11th and 14th, you can join a ride led by locals for $40. Check-in time is at 8:30am at the tennis courts behind the Community Center at 1401 Lazelle Street. No pre-registration required. 

Sturgis Dragway 

There will be serious speed and the smell of burnt rubber drifting off the Sturgis Dragway grounds this year. On August 18th there is Friday Night Street Legals, with racing starting at 7pm. The next Saturday and Sunday is reserved for the NHRA National Dragster Challenge sponsored by Blakeman Propane. Qualifying races start at 1pm on Saturday and 10:30am on Sunday with eliminations following. 

Remembering Our Fallen

At the Harley-Davidson Rally Point on Main Street a photographic memorial will be set up to honor those who have fought, served and died after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Unlike permanent memorials, this one was designed to be a traveling memorial with photographs of military officers both in active duty and in their personal lives. These soldiers will not be forgotten, and given the struggles America continues to face domestically and abroad, it will be a sobering experience while paying tribute.

3rd Annual Mayor’s Charity Poker Tournament 

Held at the Cadillac Jack’s Gaming Resort in Deadwood, the Poker Tournament happens on August 9th with first card dealt at 1pm. While Deadwood isn’t what it used to be with its heated pistol duels for sour losers, it should still be some great fun. Fifty percent of the winner’s payout will be donated to a charity or organization of their choosing. Register at https://sturgissuperstore.com/product/mayors-poker-tournament/

Xtreem Flat Track 

During the Rally, Xtreem Flat Track will be holding seven races in eight days and will be held all across Sturgis and Rapid City. Starting on August 7th and ending on August 10th, racers will be put to the test at the Jackpine Gypsies ¼-mile Short Track with a $1,000 nightly purse for professional riders and a $500 purse for Hooligan and vintage racers. Following that, the series heads to the Legendary Buffalo Chip TT on August 11th and 13th. Calling it bigger, badder and faster, it will be a blast to see this series taking to track at party central. And interesting to see how it compares to the American Flat Track Buffalo Chip TT that has been postponed this year. Guaranteed purse for Pros is upped to $2,500 for these races. Finally, as per racing tradition, the final set of races will be held at the Black Hills Speedway for the Rapid City Half-Mile on August 14th and 15th. There the races conclude with the Ronnie Stratton Memorial Sturgis Rally Championship with the winner getting a $2,500 bonus. Every race has a $20 entrance fee for adults and $5 for kids. 

Full Throttle Saloon and Pappy Hoel Campground 

We made it no secret in last year’s coverage that time spent at Full Throttle is well worth it, and that was just during the daylight hours (acting responsibly), leaving the nights to the true rabble rousers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Harley-Davidson will have test bikes there like last year with the introduction of the Live Wire, but the mothership will still be providing test drives at the Harley dealerships in the area. Regardless, there are plenty of concerts and events to attend at this expansive watering hole. Here are some of the top acts: 

Action movie star Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones) will be onsite every day of the rally with his custom savior-of-the-universe inspired Harley for autographs and photos as part of his 40th anniversary world tour commemorating the iconic character. 

Also, the Circus Una Motorcycle Thrill Show will be having daily performances of their death-defying high wire act. The ladies in the show have no fear and the extremely athletic dangle from a trapeze bar some 50 feet from the ground. 

Goat’s Biker Games will be held every day of the rally! The Goat will also be putting on daily Wet T-Shirt Contests. Wonder what that’s all about?

From August 9th to 12th, The Hollywood Knockouts will throw down with some oil wrestling. These gorgeous girls will…well, you know the drill. 

The concert list at the main stage this year looks impressive as always. 

On August 8th, Andrew Dice Clay will kick things off. 

Colt Ford and Slaughter on the 9th.

Kenny Wayne Shepard on the 10th

Dirty Honey on the 11th. Saliva is also scheduled to perform, according to Instagram. 

Steel Panther on the 12th

Jackyl on the 13th

The impressive cover band Trilogy will bring the hits on the 14th

On August 10th, Full Throttle Saloon will put on an Old School Chopper Show, followed by Paul Yaffe’s Baddest Bagger Bike Show on the 11th

Also, on the 11th, Billy Lane of Choppers Inc. will be putting on their board track-inspired vintage motorcycle race, Sons of Speed. They were supposed to hold a race last year, but it was cancelled due to an unfinished track. If you haven’t seen this race, it is a must. No brakes, full throttle, and ancient bikes picking up some serious speed. 

The Pappy Hoel Memorial Ride happens on August 12th and will be led by Jesse James Dupree of Jackyl, Angie from Angieland and Michael Ballard, owner of the Full Throttle Saloon. 

Iron Horse Saloon

Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic’s impact on the rally, Iron Horse Saloon temporarily paused booking artists. But some have been confirmed. 

August 9th, Royal Bliss and Fozzy 

August 10th, Fame on Fire and
Whitney Morgan

August 11th, Flaw and Hairball 

August 12th, Fire From the Gods
and Hairball

August 13th, Stitched Up Heart
and Saul

Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame

The Sturgis Museum will be open every day of the Rally and is a nice place to cool off from the heat and spend some time pondering the history of motorcycling. We are told that some of Thunder Press’ best (they are all the best!) articles will be on display. It is always nice getting the privilege to be part of the museum. The 2020 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held on August 12th at the Lodge in Deadwood. Inductees this year include Allen Alvarez, Arlin Fatland, Dave Mackie, Jody Perewitz, Micah McCloskey, Skeeter Todd, Vicki Sanfelipo, and Freedom Fighters Wayne and Susan Lettau will be honored with Don Hotop the Arlen Ness Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient. It is inspiring to watch and listen to these legends speak of their accomplishments. 

The Sturgis Buffalo Chip 

Everybody knows The Chip is the place to be, this year and every year since the ’80s. While we have written about the safety measures being put in place in our June issue, here is a rundown of the announced concerts and events. 

Bands

The 80th Anniversary was supposed to be grand, but unfortunately performers like Lynyrd Skynyrd, REO Speedwagon, Willie Nelson and family and ZZ Top are no longer headliners citing Covid-19 concerns. Rather than be disappointed, we should embrace the current situation, seeing that some of these folks are pretty long in the tooth and at a high risk of Corona complications. Regardless, the Chip has a stacked list of bands to get your blood pumping! 

Clocking in more than 1,000 appearances at the Chip, the tenacious and lurid performer Hank Rotten Jr. will be performing daily during the rally. 

Glam metal rocker Lita Ford will be on stage on August 7th and will bring folks back to the 80s with her searing solos and emotional ballads. 

Adelitas Way, a rally favorite, will bring crowd-pleasing jams like “Invincible,” “Notorious,” “Sick” and “Dog on a Leash” to the stage on August 8th.  

The California-based hard rock quartet Trapt will be headlining August 9th, with their headbanging blend of biting lyrics and heavy metal instrumentals. 

Night Ranger will be putting on a giant rock and roll party on August 10th. Don’t miss the wild mayhem of these guys. 

Once their 2005 hit “Crazy Bitch” hit the radio waves, Buckcherry was instantly on everybody’s radar as fans snapped up the uncensored version. These seductive rockers will be performing on August 11th

A first for the rally, Team Certified Sport will be putting on The Takeover, a professional boxing match. Competitors will go toe-to-toe during six bouts of fierce fighting on August 11th.

Lit, considered by some to be the preeminent bands to come out of the late 1990’s post-grunge era, will be taking the stage on August 12th

Southern rock sensation 38 Special will be performing on August 13th. They will be well-armed with their classic tunes. 

To close it all out, Quiet Riot will be performing on August 14th. The rock and roll phenomenon are lauded as the first heavy metal band to top the pop chart at #1.

Buffalo Chip Bike Shows and Events 

The Motorcycle as Art Show is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The show, curated by famed photographer Michael Lichter (who shot our May ‘Women in Motorcycling’ cover), will bring together tons of passion projects at the Event Center on August 8th and runs until the end of the rally.  

The Buffalo Chip School’s Out Chopper Show presented by Haulbikes will feature Mondo Porras of Denver Chopper and will also take place on August 8th.

The FXR Show and Dyna Mixer is happening on August 9th at the CrossRoads. This ride-in show will have its award ceremony at 2:30pm. 

The folks at V-Twin Visionary will be putting on their second annual bike show at the CrossRoads on August 10th. The show follows a battalion of riders chasing VTV from Phoenix to Sturgis in an organized stampede. 

Sportster Showdown Bike Show featuring Pat Patterson of Led Sled Customs celebrates the history of the Harley-Davidson Sportster. August 11th at CAMP ZERO

All Brands Bike Show and Bagger Blast Off featuring Tony Cianci of Full Throttle Florida will have awards in over 10 classes! August 12th at the CrossRoads.

Rat’s Hole Bike Show will display a colossal collection of custom motorcycles on August 13th at the CrossRoads.  Over 100 of the Sturgis Rally’s finest will be competing in 14 different classes including the Bagger Showdown, the Counts Kustom Award and the prestigious Arlen Ness Custom Choice Award.

The Legends Ride this year will be led by actor and motorcycle enthusiast Tom Berenger on August 10th, kicking off at the Franklin Hotel in Deadwood. This event has, since its inception in 2008, raised over half a million dollars for charity and hosted some of the biggest names in television, film, music and motorcycling.

The Western Frontier Motorcycle Rides take you from the Buffalo Chip to the Slim Buttes Battlefield with historian Paul Mitchell. Each ride will offer you the chance to experience history hands on with activities including rifle and pistol shooting and n expedition to the site of the Great Sioux Nation Battle at Slim Buttes. Happening August 11th and August 13th

On August 12th, the Street Drag Invitational with Crazy John will bring the sights, sounds and smells of motorcycles thundering by at speeds of up to 120 mph at the Amphitheater

Besides all these events there are a ton of competitions going down daily. Check the Buffalo Chip website for more! 

Black Hills Harley-Davidson 

The 2020 Sturgis Rally at “The Rally at Exit 55” is on this year! Vendors will be on site from August 2nd to 15th. It will feature nearly 80 companies who are ready to take orders and install new products. Nothing says Sturgis better than coming back with some new add-ons, or even a new bike. Their new and pre-owned inventory is always tempting, so pull the trigger and keep the economy going. 

Ali Richmond contributed to this story.

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