STURGIS, Kentucky — It was just after dawn at the small Union County fairgrounds, but there was a tinge of exhaust already in the air. I had just begun to head for the camp when my only contact appeared with a warning:
“Don’t take any pictures of those people.”
‘Who? Behind the orange fencing?”
“Yes. That’s the Hell’s Angels.”
I tipped my hat to the early works of Hunter S. Thompson and took the message to heart – perhaps even my official “welcome” to the Sturgis Kentucky Bike Rally.
Originally known as “Little Sturgis,” the largest motorcycle rally in Kentucky officially started in 1993. Held the third weekend in July, it’s an annual destination for those with a propensity for leather, shedding clothing and the name Harley-Davidson.
“It’s a family reunion of sorts. A lot of people come to make new friends and for new bonds and just have the experience,” rally spokesperson Doug Rodgers said. “It’s an escape from reality.”
It’s true. Inside this gated fairground, once a year, societal norms and expectations bend and break. Here, it’s commonplace to meet folks named Sidetrack Taylor, Chigger Girard and Reno. Just Reno. Perhaps take a dusk stroll and almost get run over by a 60-year-old naked man riding on a moped. Kentucky summers are hot, so if you’re lucky, you might get sprayed with a Super Soaker by a bare-chested woman in her 40s.
You know? The usual.
Year after year, from Florida to Michigan, bikers make the journey to Sturgis, Kentucky, about…