2023 Sturgis Buffalo Chip Part One

For years my favorite client was Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. We did so many events together and in the early 2010s it felt like I was going to some music festival or tattoo convention for them every other weekend. Times and budgets changed and that stuff slowed down but I was still working with them semi regularly until the pandemic canceled events and then I had my back injury and couldn’t really do any big events. A few months ago I reached back out to them and let them know my back was doing better and was down to work again and it wasn’t long before they reached out with the idea of me going to the infamous Sturgis Bike Week. That’s been on my bucket list for a long time so of course I said yes. 

Sturgis is both a city in South Dakota and a shorthand for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which is now in its 83rd year. It is synonymous for absolute chaos as hundreds of thousands of bikers descend on the area for ten days of scenic rides and total mayhem. Sailor Jerry was sponsoring the events at the Buffalo Chip campground who has been hosting thousands of bikers every year since 1981. They offer a place to camp, several bars, a swimming hole and live music every night. I got to spend three days in an RV right behind the amphitheater, mostly taking photos of Sailor Jerry related stuff, but I got to roam a bit too and I got some pretty fun pictures in the process. 

I have over 400 photos to share with you guys so I broke my three days into two halves. I didn’t shoot a ton on day one, so Part One is days one and two and then Part Two is the final day which was honestly my favorite, but mostly because I got to fly in a helicopter which is something I’ve never done before. More on that later… 

I booked my flight super last minute and so it would have been $2000 to fly in on Sunday  and the flight would leave at 6am which means I would have to wake up at 3am and since I usually go to bed around 2 that didn’t seem like an ideal situation. So I looked up flights the day before and they were significantly cheaper, but after getting a hotel and a far too expensive rental car, it was basically break even. But flying in a day early meant I would be well rested and I could check out Mt. Rushmore and Deadwood and some of that kinda stuff. I took the 6am Saturday flight and when I got to my layover they offered me $600 to stay. It was raining in SD and so my sightseeing options were limited so I accepted and spent six hours in the Minneapolis airport. I figured I could nap but I completely failed and by the time I got to my hotel I was absolutely broken. Still, the rain was breaking a little bit and I was only five minutes away from Mt. Rushmore so I went and spent $10 to look at some stone heads for about 5 minutes. Honestly it was far less impressive than the World’s Largest Wooden Bigfoot that happened to be across the street from my hotel. I went back to the hotel, walked around Keystone, SD for a few minutes, got some tacos, hit the pool and finally went to sleep well rested for Sturgis the next day.

The first day at Buffalo Chip was mostly getting settled. We got there a bit late because sadly there was an accident and the road getting in was backed up. Jason from Sailor Jerry picked me up and we did some grocery shopping and waited for the road to clear. Once we got there we had to get passes and deal with a few other things and then we got a tour of the place and checked out the Motorcycle As Art gallery. Buffalo Chip is huge and wasn’t really walkable but we had golf carts and mini bikes to use. Fortunately the stage and the Sailor Jerry sponsored bar was super close to our campsite so I mostly just walked everywhere. I spent an hour or two that day on my own. I walked past “Bikini Beach” where they were having an “air sex” competition which was pretty much like air guitar but for fucking. Apparently they had weird stuff like that all day there, which felt real Gathering of the Juggalos to me, but I was of course working for a corporate client so I just took a couple photos and moved on. That night the country singer Tommy Howell, formerly the actor C. Thomas Howell, performed and he was actually pretty good. I don’t really know why he changed his name though because he talked about how he was in the Outsiders between nearly every song. Finally the night ended with Lynyrd Skynyrd headlining. I mean the night didn’t actually end, there was a strip club afters thing and Bikini Beach and some of the bars were apparently popping, but I was off the clock so I went to bed. If I was covering this as a journalist I certainly would have stayed out a bit, but I had long days and I was happy to take it easy.

Day two we got to go out to Deadwood which I was psyched about because I didn’t get to go on Saturday. We brought with us four members of the International Bikini Team which is apparently a real thing. These girls basically served as promotional models for a bunch of different brands throughout the event so they would be working for Sailor Jerry one day and then Monster Energy the next or something like that. They also competed in a Miss Buffalo Chip contest every night and also bartened and did a bikini bike wash. I just hope they got paid well because those girls were hustling. I would honestly watch a documentary about them. 

Anyway, in Deadwood I mostly just photographed them handing out Sailor Jerry swag to people. Not the most exciting thing but it was fun to watch everyone’s reaction to them. We did a mini photoshoot on the stage they had set up for the Legend’s Ride and then a bunch of people came up and took photos with them since we had accidentally set up a photo booth. After that we got lunch and then made our way back to Buffalo Chip. We had planned on stopping in Sturgis on the way back but we were all exhausted. After a quick nap it was back to photographing bands. Leilani Kilgore opened and then Lita Ford played. I had such a crush on Lita Ford when I was like 14 and honestly she’s still kinda a babe in her 60s. 

The night was headlined by Limp Bizkit. Seriously. While Fred Durst is super goofy and I never liked their music back in the day, I actually really enjoyed their set. The combination of nostalgia mixed with the reactions from the crowd made it a lot of fun. Plus my strongest Limp Bizkit memory is their Woodstock 99 performance so I was just waiting for bikers to just start setting shit on fire. It didn’t happen, probably because the average age of the crowd was 65, but we still had a good time. 

So yeah, that’s the end of Part One. I will be back soon with the final day of the trip. I should also mention that while I didn’t really shoot any super NSFW photos, there are a few that I felt were a little to risque for Flicker so I threw them up on Girls of DBB. That site has thousands of my nude photos from over the years and is totally worth the money, but don’t sign up for it just to see the few NSFW shots from Sturgis because it’s not much. Just wanted to give you a heads up. Now go look at some photos. And thanks again to Sailor Jerry for having me out!

Click here to see all my photos from day one and two of my 2023 Sturgis Buffalo Chip adventure.

Sturgis Buffalo Chip

Limp Bizkit @ Sturgis Buffalo Chip

Sturgis Buffalo Chip

Sturgis Buffalo Chip

Lynyrd Skynyrd @ Sturgis Buffalo Chip

Sturgis Buffalo Chip

Sturgis Buffalo Chip

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