Deadwood, S.D., Aug. 8—Folks that ride or otherwise participate in the motorcycle culture are known for their generosity and good deeds, and for their support of the community as a whole. But it’s not often that these giving people are acknowledged for their part in advancing the sport of motorcycling, keeping it alive and well. The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame Induction Breakfast is one of those rare opportunities for recognizing those who have made a positive impact on motorcycling in general, and the Class of 2018 certainly epitomizes this ideal.
For the first time, the Museum hosted a Meet & Greet for the Class of 2018 on Tuesday, the day before the breakfast. The event, held at the Museum on Main Street, was sponsored by Law Tigers, and was a great opportunity to meet and mingle with the 2018 Hall of Fame inductees in a relaxed atmosphere. Door prizes, flat-track half-mile tickets, and autographs were the order of the day, and included attendance by prior Hall of Famers as well.
This was the 18th year the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame has awarded individuals or groups with this honor. The induction breakfast is held annually, on the Wednesday morning of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and the venue for the past several years has been the Lodge at Deadwood, where a bounteous meal is served prior to the proceedings.
This year’s Hall of Fame ceremony commenced with an invocation and blessing by Auggie Minzlaff, followed by the National Anthem and a welcome from Sturgis Mayor Mark Carstensen.
Before the business of the actual induction began, Strider, the presenting sponsor, held its own award ceremony. Strider founder Ryan McFarland presented the 2018 Strider Inspiration Award to Amy Speidel, a special education teacher at Rapid City Central High School. Accepting the award with Amy was one of her students, Grady Leonard, who learned to pedal on two wheels after learning on a Strider, and plans to learn to ride a motorcycle by the end of the year.
McFarland gave an impassioned speech about his vision, to ensure that all children, regardless of their race, gender, ability, or financial situation, can ride a bike before the first grade. The Strider Education Foundation, a nonprofit that transforms life with riding, is just one of many efforts that Strider has undertaken to introduce children to life on two wheels, with the eventual goal of bringing younger generations into the motorcycle culture. McFarland himself is an avid motorcyclist, having gotten his own son involved in the sport of motorcycling at a very early age.
Opening remarks for the ceremony were given by emcee Jessi Combs, who was also the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally grand marshal. Jessi is a metal fabricator, builder, and industrial artist who you may have seen on a number of TV shows where she’s either hosted or guested. The opening remarks were followed by the museum report given by the new executive director of the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum, Emma Garvin. Former executive director Myrick Robbins was also on hand as part of his transition of responsibilities.
The Class of 2018 inductees were introduced and brought to the stage, one by one… except for Hamsters USA, a worldwide organization of custom bike builders and enthusiasts that was also celebrating the 40th anniversary of its founding in Daytona Beach. Many Hamsters have been inducted into the Hall of Fame individually, but Hamsters were inducted as an entire group because of the philanthropic deeds that they’ve donated to various organizations in South Dakota.
Sculptor Jeff Decker was then invited to the stage for his magnificent works that beautifully illustrate his passion for motorcycling. Jeff created the Lifetime Achievement award for the induction, “By The Horns,” a.k.a. “The Hill Climber,” the sculpture that graces the grounds of the Harley-Davidson Museum, and a brand-new sculpture of champion hillclimber and dirt track racer Joe Petrali that has been placed on Main Street in downtown Sturgis, as well as many other works he has crafted. Jeff is most well known for the “lost wax” bronze casting process he employs for his sculptures.
Jack Hoel comes from Sturgis motorcycle royalty; his father Pappy Hoel owned an Indian dealership and was credited with the start of the Black Hills Classic with the Jackpine Gypsies MC. Jack became a motorcycle racer, later working for Yamaha in their racing and new product development departments. He has had a major influence on the development and progression of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally as well as the Sturgis community.
Armondo “Mondo” Porras has been part of the motorcycle industry for over 50 years, having worked with custom builder Denver Mullins at Denver’s Choppers. Mondo has continued to be active in building front ends and custom bikes, as well as promoting the sport of motorcycling through multiple media outlets.
Marilyn Stemp, with her late husband Dennis, started IronWorks Magazine nearly 30 years ago, and in 2014, after the last issue of IronWorks, Marilyn launched Iron Trader News, an online motorcycle publication. She also works with several other motorcycle publications and is involved with the Evel Knievel Museum, the Sturgis Buffalo Chip, and various charitable organizations.
Valerie Thompson, known as “America’s Queen of Speed,” holds several land speed records, and has exceeded 300 mph on two wheels. She has earned her place in several prestigious 200 MPH clubs, and with her 304.263 mph speed in 2016 at the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials, she achieved the Fastest Time of the Meet award. Valerie also works with the Barrett-Jackson and Metro Auto Auctions, as well as supporting charitable organizations.
This year’s Freedom Fighter Award was given to Kirk “Hardtail” Willard, current president of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation and active member of ABATE of Wisconsin. The award is intended to recognize those who have made sacrifices to protect motorcyclists’ rights, and Kirk personifies this description. Through his promotions of the sport of motorcycling and his charitable activities, Kirk has put in countless miles, hours, and effort to help insure that we all have the right to ride, now and in the future.
The Lifetime Achievement Award honors leaders in motorcycling, those who have greatly contributed to the sport. This year’s award went to Fred Fox, chairman of LeMans Corporation, the parent company of Parts Unlimited which he started in 1967, and Drag Specialties that he acquired in 1988. LeMans is the world’s largest motorcycle aftermarket distributor, and offers hundreds of brands as well as its own brands. Fred himself, and avid rider and racer from an early age, also owns a fine collection of antique motorcycles and other motor vehicles.
Nominations are now open for the 2019 Hall of Fame at https://www.sturgismuseum.com/Nomination-Application. And donations to the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame are accepted at https://www.sturgismuseum.com/Contribute. The museum has a $1.5 million goal which includes a 2,500-foot addition to the existing location (already completed), as well as future expansions of exhibits, galleries, and educational opportunities through the construction of a brand-new building just off I-90 exit 30. Donations of motorcycles and memorabilia for the museum’s collection are also accepted.