Biker breakfast tradition rallies on

Leslie Silverman
It’s been 27 years since Hill City Senior Center first began serving bikers breakfast during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
In 1994 Dorothy and Gini Pennel got an idea to feed hungry bikers and fundraise for the Seniors.
“I took posters to every campground, gas station and store around,” recalls Gini, remembering the challenge of those first few years. “Now we don’t even need to advertise any more. It’s just grown and grown and grown.”
What began over a quarter century ago has grown not only in size but has turned into the Senior Center’s largest fundraising activity. The organization has been self-sufficient since 2004, receiving no money from Hill City yet still providing the community valuable programming and a space for locals to break bread and connect with others. 
The rally breakfast uses word of mouth as its best advertising, although posts on social media and the Hill City Chamber of Commerce website, as well as the signs around town also draw people in. The breakfast has become so much more than just the all- you-can eat eggs, bacon, pancakes and biscuits and gravy that is cooked fresh each day. It’s a tradition for some, and a feeling of family for others. 
Seventy-four year-old Bill Peoples of Arizona has been coming to the breakfast for at least 20 years. This year Peoples was camping in Nemo but made the drive to Hill City on the first day of the rally for food he describes as “pretty darn good.”
Peoples is part of the Flying Wheels Motorcycle Club and was traveling with friends from as far as British Columbia.
“You can’t beat the deal. All you can eat for 12 bucks. We can eat a lot,” he said with a laugh. 
Peoples is one of many repeat customers who come back year after year to support the senior center.
“We recognize them,” said Pennel. “And they recognize us. It seems like a family.”
That bond between local volunteers and repeat customers is strong. When the senior center advertised last on social media that it was in need of a new countertop, a repeat customer from Kansas City wrote a check to cover the expense.
“That’s the kind of reputation we have,” said Hill City Senior Center board president Dale Householder, who referred to the repeat customers as “amazing.” He greets both repeat and new customers as they enter by saying, “thanks for coming.”
Householder explained the logistics of serving about 2,500 people over the course of 10 days. The process begins in May when a review of last year’s numbers takes place, showing how much bacon, eggs, and flour was used over the 10-day event. Current attendance projections from the state are then studied. 
The center projected a 20 percent increase in attendance and supplies for this year, based on those projections. A master list is then created. In June notices are sent out asking for people to help.
This year there are 290 slots for volunteers, only 40 or so which did not get filled, although each day people wander in unannounced to help with any number of tasks like  cracking eggs or putting out chairs. The center did raise the breakfast price this year by $2 to cover the increased cost of food in 2021. For the second year in a row breakfast is being served outside, which works better for volunteers and bikers.
“We’re not as crowded in the kitchen and we can serve more people,” Householder said.
The breakfast attracts new bikers each year. Steve Trudell from Green Bay, Wis., was looking for a place to eat Friday morning and saw the tents.
“It’s good,” Trudell said of the food. “Real good. It’s like my mom made.”
Kelvin Ruesch, also a first time breakfaster, loved the bacon.
“I think what they’re doing is fantastic. I’m glad to know it’s going to a good cause. And it seems to be well run,” he said.
The all-you-can-eat breakfast includes coffee and orange juice, from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and runs through Aug. 14.

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