Sturgis Memories

Posted by Paul Trachy on Aug 10th 2017

I Worked my first Sturgis Rally in the early 80's. At that time There were a fraction of the vendors that now exist. It was a small tight knit community. Although we competed fiercely with each other there was a degree of cooperation, comradery and honor that was fostered by our enforced intimacy and shared experience of a very hard life on the road. There were no corporate vendors or vendors supported by outside money. It was a string of Mom & Pop operations. A lot of them like me started from scratch and worked with their families on the road. At that time, all the leather on the circuit was made in the USA, a condition that transitioned into imported leather almost overnight.
The first place I ever set up in Sturgis was the Buffalo Chip Campground the weather was hot but all the security people were wearing dusters. The reason for the dusters became apparent as I would occasionally get a glimpse of automatic or semiautomatic weapons under the dusters. The wet T shirt contest at Buffalo Chip involved no T shirts and sometimes no panties.
The next year I set up on main street. My fondest memory was closing shop, crossing main street late on a windy Saturday night and having my brief case pop open and spill thousands of dollars into the wind and on to the street. My wife, my kids and a spontaneous army of bikers chased down the flying paper. I don't think I lost a dollar.
My kids who were about seven and ten at the time worked long hours. I would give them breaks where thy would roam the streets on their own or crawl into a pile of leather in the back room and take a nap. A lot of vendors knew my kids so there was a loose form of adult supervision as my kids visited from one store to the next. Once in Sturgis, I found them in front of a taped off police area where there had been a shoot-out. 

The logistics of transporting, housing and feeding a crew in Sturgis were daunting. I often left Virginia with a skeleton crew, hired local people and tapped into a network of Christian bikers across the country that I worked with for years. One night I found my kids in a circle of Christian bikers that were testifying about what their lives had been like before they were saved. A lot of rough people with a lot of rough stories - a priceless education for my kids. The best thing about working the road was that it was a priceless education for my kids. They got to witness just about every illicit activity and the ill effects of just about every drug or drink while they were under adult supervision. It didn't call for any moralizing on my part. There wasn't any romance in it just the hard cold facts. I'm sure if social services knew how we were living they would have taken my kids away but as my son Pete once told me: "I wouldn't trade my upbringing for anything"