The steady rumble of motorcycles parked Wednesday at the Big D Gas Station in Belle Fourche was only overshadowed by the roar of bikes accelerating as they headed west on Highway 34 to the Wyoming border.
For the past 26 years, two small towns in northeast Wyoming have played host to motorcyclists every Wednesday during the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
Hulett hosts the Ham N Jam festival and Sundance the annual burnouts competition for rallygoers.
The two events have grown exponentially over the past quarter of a century, said Dan Newman, 56, who has attended every Wyoming Wednesday celebration for the past 25 years.
Bikers make the nearly 150-mile round trip ride from Sturgis to get a free pulled pork sandwich at the Ham N Jam, before heading down to Sundance, he said.
The Ham N Jam, which used to be the main event for bikers, has ironically become less of an attraction as its popularity has increased due to new rules and increased police attention, Newman said.
The event, which used to allow nudity, called “No panty Wednesday,” no longer allows nudity.
“When you’ve got officers, usually on horseback, standing right next to you all the time, you can’t party quite like you used to,” Newman said.
Phil Brice, 59, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., made his first trip to Hulett and said the event didn’t live up to the stories he’s heard.
“We heard about how crazy it gets here and no panty Wednesday,” Brice said. “So far, I haven’t seen much of anything.”
The festival still attracts thousands of visitors every year, said Brianna Gose, 28, whose family owns Capt N Ron’s Rodeo Bar. The bar started the Ham N Jam festival 26 years ago, she said.
“When they started it 26 years ago, they started with 100 pounds of pork, one whole pig,” Gose said. “Now, we serve 1,000 pounds of pork and 300 pounds of beans.”
Last year, the festival attracted an estimated 25,000 people, Gose said. This year’s event was down in numbers, which is probably due to the recent rainy weather, she said.
Still, motorcycles lined the streets of downtown Hulett, a town of close to 400 people, Wednesday afternoon.
The festival, which kicked off around 10 a.m. Wednesday, usually dies down around 5 p.m., when everyone has left, Gose said.
Around 3 p.m. Brice and hundreds of other bikers started the trek to the annual Sundance Burnouts competition, which is put on by the Dime Horseshoe Bar, said Lorrie Hogan, manager of the event.
“It seems to grow every year,” Hogan said. “People really enjoy the competition.”
On a raised platform outside the Dime Horseshoe Bar, 10 bikers competed to burn their tire off in this year’s event. It’s a crowd-ruled event, Hogan said. How loud the audience cheers determines the winner of the competition, she said.
This year, the first-place winner received $750, second place $500 and third $250, she said.
As the first biker started his burnout, smoke began to billow from his back tire. Audience members yelled encouragement and raised their beers in support. With a loud pop, the motorcycles back tire blew and the crowd exploded in a chorus of cheers.
The burnout competition has definitely started to take over as the main event of Wyoming Wednesday, Newman said. But the combination of Ham N Jam and the burnouts makes the whole day enjoyable, he said.
“You’ve got to do the whole thing, year after year,” Newman said. “It’s a tradition to spend a little money everywhere.”