STURGIS | Michael Ballard is far from having his new Full Throttle Saloon finished, but as the 2017 rally began this year he was in a much better place than a year ago.
Ballard, his wife, Angie, and Jesse James Dupree stifled the naysayers by launching the reincarnated Full Throttle Saloon at last year's rally on a 600-acre site that had been the Broken Spoke Campground north of Bear Butte on S.D. Highway 79.
The new venue replaced the former Full Throttle, which caught fire in September 2015, destroying the saloon made famous on reality TV.
There still were some rough edges at the campground during last year's rally, but over the past year the crew at the Pappy Hoel Campground and Full Throttle Saloon have accomplished much, Ballard said.
"We're ahead of last year for sure," Ballard said. "We've got the main bar all detailed out and finished. But we've still got building going on. As much as you think you have your ducks in a row, you never do."
The ongoing construction was evident throughout the campground, but Ballard admits the new space is a work in progress.
Ballard said they have completely moved off their old property on S.D. Highway 34 east of Sturgis over the past year. They moved their cabins to the new location and sold the old Full Throttle site to the owners of the Iron Horse Saloon in Sturgis.
"We've got a lot more infrastructure out here," Ballard said. "We've got water to the property, paving and lights. We've just got a lot of upgrades."
In addition to the famous Full Throttle Saloon, the Pappy Hoel Campground has tons of camping and RV sites as well as cabins, a fully stocked grocery store and restaurant.
They have an Olympic-sized swimming pool that they opened up to locals in July to help them combat the extreme heat. The pool was open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and cost just $5 for admission.
Just to the east of the new 26,000-square-foot Full Throttle Saloon building is what Ballard calls the largest stage in South Dakota, measuring 90 feet by 130 feet.
They also have hot air balloon and helicopter rides from the campground.
In addition to a motorcycling motif, the campground pays homage to the bygone era of manufacturing.
"When Michael Ballard rebuilt the Full Throttle Saloon he wanted it to be a tribute to what made America great," said co-owner Dupree. "When you walk into this place it looks like the Industrial Revolution blew up."
Dupree is referring to the oversized historical machinery placed throughout the venue, which resonates with gearheads of all types.
Ballard said it will take some time to get the new location to a point where he's happy with it. "It took me 18 years to get the old one up," he said. "We are hoping that by the 80th we'll be looking good."
The Full Throttle has a full concert lineup this week and has made a special effort to get locals out to the saloon on Saturday night. "It's kind of a locals appreciation night. We will have bull riding at the bar and free tickets for locals," he said.
The Full Throttle did a mass mailing to homes in Sturgis, Belle Fourche and Whitewood, inviting residents to the party.
"We're a ranch community here, and that's what drives this part of the country," Ballard said. "So, we booked the Dustin Evans band because they have a good local draw. Everything the whole week is motorcycle related, so on Saturday we wanted to cater to the locals."