In Memory Of

Pearl Hoel – First Lady of the Sturgis Rally

Written by  March 31, 2005

Pearl Hoel passed away in Sturgis, South Dakota, on February 27, 2005, at the age of 99. When her husband, the late John Clarence “Pappy” Hoel, organized the first “Black Hills Motor Classic” in 1938, she was at his side. She and her friends fed most of those who attended that first Sturgis Rally. The bikers ate free weenies, sloppy joes, potato salad, and watermelon in a tent behind the garage at the Hoel’s Indian Motorcycle dealership. The rally attracted about 200 who came to watch a dozen riders race on Sturgis’ ½ mile dirt oval.

Pearl jokingly attributed the origin of the Sturgis Rally to the advent of the refrigerator. Pappy was in the family ice business in the 1930s when electric refrigerators were becoming popular. Seeing the declining demand for ice, Pappy and Pearl decided to get into a different business. They bought an Indian Motorcycle franchise in 1936. In 1937, Pappy founded the Jackpine Gypsies motorcycle club. Based on the success of the first rally, the races became an annual event. The rally grew in spurts over the years and now attracts hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists to the Black Hills every August generating over $100 million in retail sales annually. Pappy died in 1989 at the age of 84, but Pearl carried on his legacy, supporting and promoting the rally in any way she could, even in her later years.

Pearl was born in Crestline, Ohio, to Roy and Inga (Anderson) Kinney. Her family moved to Rapid City, South Dakota when she was five. She graduated from high school in Rapid City in 1923 and from Spearfish Normal School in 1925 with her teaching certificate. Pearl taught in small rural schools until she met Pappy on a blind date at a community dance, and they married in 1928. During the Great Depression, she worked as an investigator for the W.P.A. helping needy families in Meade County. Pearl spent many years in public service in various capacities including Meade County Clerk of Courts, Register of Deeds, and County Auditor. She was recently nominated to the South Dakota Hall of Fame. Pearl was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, the Bernice Rebekah Lodge #36, the Meade County Extension Club, the Key City Riding Club, the General Federation of Women’s Literary Club, an honorary member of the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club, the Retread Motorcycle Club, the White Plate Flat Trackers Club, and the Meade County Central Republican Committee. She is survived by her son, Jack Hoel of Sturgis and grandsons Kurt and Bruce.

Pearl was the First Lady of the Sturgis Rally and will be missed by many. She and Pappy are reunited now, and I picture them on an Indian motorcycle happily winding their way through the Black Hills and keeping a lookout for their many friends.

By Stripe