Patriotism shines at Sturgis |

Patriotism shines at Sturgis

Right now, there are some 500,000 motorcycles riders on their way to or from, or staying in the area around Sturgis, S.D. Considering South Dakota has around 850,000 residents, it can be a shock for visitors who do not know what’s going to transpire with the 82nd Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. There are motorcycles on every highway; the interstate is one long parade of bikes.

Riders come from all over the world. Some ride cross country to get here. Others tow their bikes on trailers or in enclosed trailers. Motor homes pulling bikes are commonly seen. It is in vogue to have your bike shipped via truck, the bike owners driving in conventional vehicles, or flying in, and once the owner arrives, the riding begins. Additional choices are flying in and renting a motorcycle, all by reservation of course.

Most years at least one biker per day is killed during the rally. They like to ride in the Black Hills yet many are not experienced with the hilly, curvy roads and they over drive the conditions.

With all of this going on, there is a huge patriotic component to Sturgis. Before the rally opens, the Buffalo Chip venue honors military members who died while on active duty on its Freedom Field where 808, 4-by-6 foot American flags are placed by veterans, family members and volunteers. The field of flags is set in a 42-by-19 pattern. Once the flags are placed, a 50 X 80 flag is raised and everyone joins in the Pledge of Allegiance. In downtown Sturgis, a Military Appreciation Day pays particular honor to Gold Star families. A B-1 flyover is a highlight.

There is no shortage of permanent resident veterans in and around the Black Hills and the veteran population swells considerably during the rally. One of two Veterans’ Administration hospitals, Fort Meade, within the Black Hills VA system is located east of Sturgis, near the Buffalo Chip. The second VA in that system is at Hot Springs.

Fort Meade has a surprising historical connection to patriotism as that is where the Star Spangled Banner was first called the National Anthem. In 1892, Colonel Caleb Carlton, 8th Cavalry, was assigned as new commander at Fort Meade. He determined that the Star Spangled Banner would be played every day at Retreat when the flag was lowered at 5 in the afternoon.

Sept. 14, 1814, lawyer Francis Scott Key wrote the poem, “The Defence of Fort M’Henry,” after the British bombarded the fort, and in the morning, the U.S. flag was still flying. Key saw it from the boat he was on some eight miles from the fort, and was inspired to write the poem. It was widely publicized and several years later it was set to the music of an old British drinking song, written in the 1700s by composer John Stafford Smith with the title “To Anacreon in Heaven.”

After several attempts, U.S. House passed the bill naming the National Anthem and it was signed into law by President Herbert Hoover on March 4, 1931.

Sturgis is many things to different people, but to patriots, it is a center of like-minded individuals.


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