Jan. 25—ETHAN, S.D. — When it comes to motorcycles, few area residents can boast as much experience as Laura Klock.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally certainly feels that way, with organizers of the event having selected her as the grand marshal of the 83rd rally. The annual event is scheduled to take place Aug. 4-13 in Sturgis.
Klock said her selection was a surprise, but one she was honored to receive.
"They asked me if I would be interested, and I didn't know what to say," Klock told the Mitchell Republic. "It was nothing I sought out, but I'm very humbled and blessed that they saw Helping with Horsepower and some of what we've done as checking some boxes for the city."
The grand marshal serves as somewhat of a brand ambassador for the rally, and over the years the role has been filled by a who's who of personalities from the motorcycling world. Klock, an Ethan resident who has a long history with the rally as an attendee, rider and vendor, began visiting the rally in 1996, even before she moved to South Dakota.
In the mid-1990s era, before Google and widespread internet availability brought images and information from around the world into the living room, visiting a rally with thousands of attendees riding every variation of motorcycle was almost too good to be true.
"I've been to a lot of rallies around the country, and Sturgis has always been my favorite," Klock said. "The beautiful riding and different people from all over the world. For me, a midwest girl from Wisconsin, you couldn't just Google 'motorcycles.' Going to the rally was way better than looking at a magazine."
She has a long list of bonafides when it comes to the motorcycling world. She is known for setting land speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats. She was the pilot of the first "world's fastest bagger," a modified Harley-Davidson Road Glide that was featured on Discovery Channel's "Biker Build-Off" series and helped design and test the patented Flare windshield, according to a release from the city of Stugis.
Along with daughters Erika and Karlee, she is part of the first mother-daughter-daughter trio in land speed racing history to set records at the same time. That endeavor is told in the documentary "Klocked: Women with Horsepower."
Klock will also enter a rather exclusive club, being one of the few women chosen over the years to serve as the grand marshal. The late Jessi Combs was the first to do it in 2017 and Jody Perewitz followed in 2021. Klock, who became friends with both over the years, said she admires both of them and is honored to be a part of that group.
In recent years, she has been known as the founder and president of the Helping with Horsepower Bike Rebuild Program, a nonprofit group for at-risk youth. The program recently
partnered with Mitchell Technical College to build a special custom motorcycle designed with a theme based on the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
That bike will be auctioned off Saturday morning, Jan. 28 at the Mecum Auction in Las Vegas, with benefits going to support both Helping with Horsepower and the Sturgis Rally Endowment Fund.
That auction will be broadcast on MotorTrend+.
The Sturgis Rally Endowment Fund is a part of the Black Hills Community Foundation, and the proceeds from the Mecum Auction going toward the fund will help "ensure that the Rally tradition of charitable giving endures for the benefit of future area residents," Sturgis Mayor Mark Carstensen said in a release earlier this month.
The fact that her organization had a particularly close working relationship with the rally this year made being asked to serve as grand marshal extra special. Working with a large group of people to create a one-of-a-kind bike to raise funds that will go toward a good cause is an experience she continues to cherish.
"It came together and that's always the fun part of those programs. It's such a collaboration of everyone who had hands on it. One of my favorite parts is watching it become what it's supposed to be. Just the energy behind it," Klock said.
As the custom bike gets ready to hit the auction block in Las Vegas, Klock said she would love to be reunited with the machine at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August. Organizers of the rally included a VIP package that will go to the auction winner along with the bike, and Klock said she hopes the winner will take advantage of the opportunity.
"I really hope so. I've been praying that this person cares about all of that and doesn't just look at the pretty bike, but cares about the story behind it. That's always important, I think," Klock said.
Regardless if the winner of the bike makes their way to Sturgis this year, Klock knows it will be another interesting and exciting year for the annual event. She's again looking forward to meeting new people, seeing all the unique motorcycles and generally spending time with a group of folks who appreciate the finer points of bikes and riding.
She's been enjoying the rally since 1996, and she knows she'll enjoy the one in 2023, as well.
"It's cool to be part of something that lasts and endures that long. A lot of things come and go, even with Sturgis, a lot of things have changed in the 25 years I've been going," Klock said. "But it's definitely something to experience, whether you ride motorcycles or not."