Sturgis, S.D. - Tony and Vicki Sanfelipo are unfazed by the thousands of rumbling motorcycles and throngs of people, most clad in black leather, in this usually quiet town in South Dakota's Black Hills.
The Milwaukee couple are among the eclectic mix of bikers here for the 72nd annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The six-day event officially began Monday and could attract more than 700,000 people - nearly equal to the entire population of South Dakota.
The Sanfelipos have been coming to the rally for decades, and they've seen it morph from a modest-size gathering of motorcycle racers and then outlaw bikers to what's now one of the largest, and most civil, events of its kind in the world.
They are so fond of Sturgis, they were married here 10 years ago on top of Crazy Horse Mountain.
"No one had asked to do that before, and we were the first. We have a long history out here of loving the Black Hills. That's for sure," Vicki Sanfelipo said.
The annual rally began in 1938, organized by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club as a venue for racing and stunts, and it has continued every year except for two during World War II.
Today, it's as much about partying and cruising around town on expensive bikes as anything else. Many riders bring their bikes here on trailers towed behind motor homes. Hundreds stay at nice hotels costing hundreds of dollars a night rather than pitch a tent in a park or a farmer's field.
Harley-Davidson Inc. has its own area in downtown Sturgis filled with motorcycles, riding apparel, parts and accessories. The company uses the rally to recruit motorcyclists, including women riders, and connect with its longtime, faithful customers.
"Sturgis is really where our riders are able to come together with a sense of belonging, a sense of family and brotherhood," said Harley chief executive Keith Wandell.
"It's an opportunity to demonstrate our products, do test rides, and have people be part of the overall experience. And then they go into the Black Hills and ride," he added.
Years ago, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was more of a rowdy affair that drew biker gangs known for drugs, drunkenness and nudity. Hundreds of people were arrested every year, only to come back and do it again.
"It was a little bit unruly and unlawful," said Wade Fletcher, a Milwaukee-area motorcyclist and Sturgis rally-goer for more than 30 years.
Today's hard-core Sturgis rider is grayer, much better behaved, and has a lot more money.
Vicki Sanfelipo is a surgical nurse. Tony Sanfelipo is an accident investigator for the law firm Hupy & Abraham.
You're more apt to run into a hog-riding doctor or lawyer than an outlaw at this year's rally, although the Hells Angels have a booth here amid hundreds of vendors selling everything from tattoos to hearing aids.
And even with hundreds of thousands of motorcycles and seemingly no escape from the noise, there's solitude only a short distance away in the canyons and sparsely populated back country of western South Dakota.
"Everything is what you make of it," Vicki Sanfelipo said. "If you want to hang out in the crowds, you can, but we typically put 800 miles on our bikes while we are here."
For Susan Lucas, of Sheboygan, there's nothing comparable to this year's rally because this is her first time here.
Lucas bought her Harley-Davidson Dyna a few weeks ago, and three friends asked her to make the trek to Sturgis with them.
"So I said yes. Life is too short not to go," Lucas said.