DEADWOOD — When it comes to becoming a member of one of the most elite contributors to the motorcycle industry who have made a historic impact on the biker community, there are only a select few who know how it feels.
After a room filled with about 450 people heard stories of the 2013 Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame inductees, they saw first hand how vital they have been to preserving history, and honoring those who have spent a lifetime changing the overall perception of what it means to be a “biker” and “loving the bike you ride.”
Sturgis Mayor Mark Carstenson congratulated all of the new inductees and those who came before them and said, “It’s an honor to be here with all of you.”
Christine Paige Diers, the executive director of the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum, also spoke and said it’s been an “exciting” week, especially when it comes to seeing old friends and making new ones.
“We have a lot of great things going on at the museum,” she said, thanking all those involved in its success over the years.
John Paul DeJoria, best known as the co-founder of Paul Mitchell, emceed the ceremony and evoked plenty of laugher and emotion throughout the morning.
To showcase the importance of the museum and the Rally is to the community, he opened the induction by acknowledging the current Freedom Fighter Hall of Fame members, as well as memorialized the inductees and riders who are no longer with them today, followed by a moment of silence.
When it comes to making sacrifices, the Freedom Fighters Hall of Fame inductees know what it means to alter the motorcycling world by ensuring all riders are guaranteed certain rights, and have the necessary information on issues. The long list of Hall of Fame inductees is impressive, and “Still” Ray Fitzgerald is now one of them.
The longtime freedom rights said how honored he was to be named an inductee, and thanked those who have supported him a long the way and those who continue to make a significant contribution to the rights of motorcyclists.
After showing attendees short videos that detailed their accomplishments, this year’s hall of fame inductees Russ Brown, Rick Fairless, Marjoe Gortner and Lonnie Isam, who was honored along with his wife Marianne Isam, Sr. were introduced.
This year’s recipient of the “J.C. Pappy Hoel Outstanding Achievement Award” is Bill Gikling, who grew up in Rapid City and is the founder of Don Rice of Rice Cycle. Whether it was dominating local races, hill climbs and other events put on by clubs around the Black Hills, Gikling created a relationship with Pappy Hoel and worked with him to set up the White Plate Flat Trackers and assisted with the opening of the National Motorcycle Museum in Sturgis.
“On behalf of Pappy, welcome to the club,” DeJoria said upon announcing his name.
Gikling said he’s grateful for the relationships they’ve formed over the years, and noted that he appreciates how Harley-Davidson and so many others “pushed him forward.” And, his ride isn’t over. Today, Gikling participates in rides throughout the world, and is always present at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally where he invites his fellow bikers to experience the thrill every August.
Brown is an attorney who specializes in motorcycle personal injury. He is most recognized for being the founder of BAM and being a major financial contributor to the Motorcycle Rights Foundation.
“It’s an honor to be named,” he said, thanking those who have supported him. At Wilson’s side during the ceremony was his wife and mother of his children, whom he personally thanked for her sacrifices over the years while he was on the road.
Fairless took the stage sporting tie-dye. After the applause softened he smiled and said, “… This is the one club I’m proud to be a part of,” telling a story of how it’s pretty uncommon for him.
Fairless is a well-known master bike builder whose creations have captured the admiration of people all over the world.
“If you work hard … anything is possible,” Fairless said. “This is a huge honor. I’ve got a good family and a good life, so thank you.”
Gortner’s voice carried through the crowd and increased in decibels as he detailed a long list of accomplishments by so many in the industry. As someone who didn’t grow up in the motorcycle world, Gortner has been able to create a name for himself. He was a close friend of Evel Knievel, made various television and cinema appearances, and his efforts have been instrumental in changing the public perception of motorcycle enthusiasts and in enhancing the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
“I can’t even tell you how thrilled I am,” Gortner said, thanking the museum’s board of directors for their consideration. “This is one of the greatest days of my life.”
He then did what he does best.
As if there hadn’t been enough applause already, the crowd rose for another standing ovation after hearing the announcement that DeJoria pledged a $60,000 donation to the museum, and several others followed suit and donated thousands more.
The last inductee to take the stage, Isam, is an active member of the Sturgis community and involved in the downtown redevelopment efforts currently underway, and serves on the Sturgis Economic Development Corporation. Among a long list of business ventures and the hundreds of drag racers who have benefitted from his fabrications over the years, is how he and his wife Marianne opened up Competition Distributing in Sturgis. Today, they continue to provide more than 1,100 antique motorcycle parts to more than 13,000 customers in 29 countries.
“I’m really glad to be in this game,” Isam said. “I’ve been very lucky to go through life doing what I love.” Although his interests are vast and constantly changing, he spoke of how early engineering was what really grabbed him and kept him engaged.
It’s been a little more than 12 years since the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame opened its doors so everyone had an opportunity to see some of the most vintage and rare V-twin and metric motorcycles on loan thanks to the graciousness of local and national collectors.
Every day the museum offers visitors with a chance to learn about the Rally, as well as get a glimpse into motorcycling history in the Black Hills, the very community the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was born in 73 years ago.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum is located at 999 Main St., in Sturgis. To become a member, the museum offers several different options. For more information, call 347-2001 or visit www.sturgismuseum.com.