Motorcycle Clubs and Groups

Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

Written by  August 31, 2011

Every year at Sturgis, I make it a priority to arrange my schedule to include one or more events put on by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club. Anyone who enjoys attending the Sturgis Rally should thank the Gypsies for getting the whole thing started. The club, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, was founded by Sturgis Indian Motorcycle dealer John Clarence “Pappy” Hoel with seven original members. The club was originally known as the Jackpines because the seven original members enjoyed racing among the 'jackpines' or Ponderosa pines. One day, after they returned from a day of riding, someone told them they looked like a bunch of gypsies, and they decided to change their name to the Jackpine Gypsies.

On August 14, 1938, Pappy and the Jackpine Gypsies organized the first Black Hills Motor Classic. The weekend event featured an AMA sanctioned half-mile dirt track race. Nine riders participated in the first race, and the event drew about 200 spectators. The races became an annual affair, attracting more racers, spectators, and vendors year after year. As the crowds grew, so did the variety of events and entertainment. Amazingly, the Jackpine Gypsies’ small racing event grew into an enormous rally that attracts hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists to the Black Hills annually.

The club is a non-profit organization having over 150 members living across the United States and abroad. Associate memberships are available on line through the club’s website . The Jackpine Gypsies support various area charities including the local food bank, Sturgis High School, Zonta Club of Sturgis, and the Christian Motorcyclists Association

The Gypsies own approximately 40 acres of land along Interstate 90 between Exit 30 and Exit 32. Their property is home to a lighted short track, motocross track, field meet area, hill climb area, clubhouse, office and a state approved concession business. The schedule of events for 2011 was as follows:

Saturday, August 6 – Moto-X Practice
Sunday, August 7 – Moto-X Races

Monday, August 8 – Trophy Hill Climb

Monday, August 8 – Short Track

Tuesday, August 9 – Gypsy Tour

Tuesday, August 9 – Short Track & TT Races

Wednesday, August 10 – Half-Mile Races

Friday, August 12 – Pro Hill Climb

The results of the races are posted on the Jackpine Gypsies website . I enjoyed the races on Sturgis’ ½-mile oval. I arrived at the track just as the riders’ meeting was taking place. Soon the roar of high-performance racing engines echoed through the hills as the riders completed their practice laps. One rider among the first group on the track had the misfortune of sliding into the hay bales and suffering a shoulder injury. Thankfully, there were no other riders injured during the event.

Prior to heat races several Jackpine Gypsies rode a few parade laps showing off a variety of motorcycles from antique to modern. Club President Greg “Grog” Hultman led the way on a vintage racing bike followed by an Indian Chief bearing the club flag. During the opening ceremony, Greg’s father, Neil, who is the oldest active Gypsy at the age of 82, welcomed the spectators to the event and spoke about the club’s history.

The racing was very competitive. Several heats ended with as many as three bikes coming out of the final turn with an excellent chance of being first to the checkered flag. Race fans who came to the event hoping to see some great flat track action were not disappointed.

After the race, I was pleased to have an opportunity to visit with Neil Hultman.

CC: Neil, what year did you join the Jackpine Gypsies?
Neil: It was 1947.

CC: How has the club membership changed over the years?
Neil: It has varied. When I joined the club in 1947, there were ten of us. There were some from Sturgis, some from Deadwood, and some from Lead, and we would vary our meeting locations. When events were held, everyone worked their tails off. Now we probably have over 100 members including the associate memberships, but there are still about the same number of active members as there were when there were ten of us.

CC: What kind of motorcycles have you owned?
Neil: When I joined the club I rode an Indian. When I was in high school, I had about a 10-mile drive both ways, and I had a Model A. Right after World War Two I sold the Model A, and couldn’t get another car. A buddy of mine suggested that we both get motorcycles, and I said, “that sounds like a plan.” I went to Mr. Hoel who was the only motorcycle dealer around here. He didn’t have what I wanted at the time, but said he would get some more bikes in shortly. He sold me a 1947 Indian Chief, seafoam blue. I went over to Korea for two years, and sold it when I came back. I don’t know why I sold it. It was the one bike I should have kept, but I didn’t.

CC: Sturgis events sponsored by the club include some tours as well as the races.
Neil: Yes, this year we just had one. Sometimes we have two. The club got into the tour business at the request of the city. As the rally grew, they wanted to provide more things for people to do, so we had a tour to Mount Rushmore. Later we added a Devil’s Tower tour. This year’s tour went to Devil’s Tower, and we had 25 or 30 bikes.

CC: Your club has events other than during the rally, right?
Neil: We have meetings, rides, and races. People can go to our website and see our newsletters and learn what we do.

CC: Neil, I appreciate your taking the time to visit.

The Jackpine Gypsies continue to provide great entertainment opportunities at the Sturgis Rally every year with their wide variety of events throughout the week. The photos below are from this year’s half-mile plus a few from past years’ hill climbs and short track races.

Article and photos by Stripe