Singer-songwriter Joe Denim performs at the Veterans Club in Sturgis, S.D. Post 33 Legion family members help serve meals to thousands of people at the club during the Sturgis Motorcyle Rally. (Photo by Steve B. Brooks)

Rolling out the welcome (place) mats

In a somewhat unique arrangement that has worked for around 50 years, American Legion Post 33 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2730 have shared a facility in downtown Sturgis, S.D., that is the home of the Sturgis Veterans Club. This week, however, there are quite a few more guests at the club.

Since Aug. 3, the post has uplheld its longtime tradition of serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for the hundreds of thousands of folks in Sturgis – a town whose population normally hovers at around 6,400. Post 33 Commander Darrel Barry, a National Guard retiree, said the post could easily serve more than 4,000 people by the time they serve their last breakfast on Aug. 11.

“We pretty much serve all day long, up until the last person leaves,” Barry said. “It will start to taper off toward the end of the week, but we had a few days where we were up over 600 people.”

A breakfast buffet is just $9, while the lunch and dinner menu consists of chicken wings, fish sandwiches, chicken strips and hamburgers – “We make really good hamburgers,” Barry admits.

Barry also is proud of the physical appearance of the post this year, thanks to a recent renovation courtesy of the Craftsman “Make A Difference” Tour, Sears Heroes at Home and Rebuilding Together. The post got new carpeting, refinished floors, newly painted walls and an electrical overhaul during the project.

“We had no idea that was going to happen,” Barry said. “It was a pretty nice surprise.”

Barry said providing all the meals is a lot of work, and only the restaurant waitresses get paid for their time. But it’s a good experience.

“We trade Legion post license plates with people who come to our post,” he said, motioning to the dozens of license plates hanging from the ceiling and lining one of the post’s walls. “It’s a pretty cool thing. And the people who come here are pretty nice. The term ‘biker’ is a lot nicer now than it used to be. It’s sort of like the word ‘veteran.’ Veterans are thought of pretty highly now, and that wasn’t always the case.”