It would’ve been hard to predict what the Sturgis Buffalo Chip® would be like today had you asked the first bikers who rolled through the gates in 1982. Back then the original By Bikers, For Bikers® event looked a bit more like a three-day keg party in a pasture, with a handful of bands and a few hundred friends.
The early days of the Best Party Anywhere® may have been small by today’s standards, but those who attended knew they had stumbled upon something special.
1st Annual Buffalo Chip Picnic - 1982
As word of this magical place spread, more and more people started making the pilgrimage, causing the party to grow and evolve each year.
A lot’s changed since the ‘80s—bands, bikes, clothing, hairstyles—but the freedom and friendship on which the Buffalo Chip was built has remained a constant throughout.
Take a ride down memory lane and see the Buffalo Chip’s transformation illustrated through nearly four decades of event posters.
The 1st annual “Buffalo Chip Picnic” served as a place of refuge for bikers who had been cast off as riff-raff by the City of Sturgis. After decades of attending the Sturgis Rally, bikers showed up to discover they had been banned from camping in City Park.
These wandering spirits rode onward in search of a place they could call home—a place where they could experience music, freedom and camaraderie with no hassles. That’s when the Buffalo Chip, the original biker dedicated destination that brought motorcycles and music together, was born just four miles outside of town.
That first year the grounds consisted of an open field with a few porta potties and a makeshift stage where campers enjoyed three nights of performances by entertainers including Johnny Paycheck and Susie Nelson (Willie’s daughter).
The bikers who showed up at the first “Buffalo Chip Picnic” made history, turning a patch of land into the home of The Best Party Anywhere.
By the time the sixth annual event rolled around in 1987, the Buffalo Chip had truly made a name for itself with a now nine-day event. However, the name “Buffalo Chip Picnic” that the event had gone by until this point was now off limits. It seemed a sly rally-goer had thought the magic resided in the name alone, and so he had applied for its trademark.
Of course, their bogus claim wouldn't hold up once Buffalo Chip founder Rod “Woody” Woodruff challenged it. But in the meantime, he knew bikers would still come no matter what the event was called. So the party temporarily went by the name “Bare Butte Rendezvous" until he won the lawsuit challenging their claim.
Way Out Willy (AKA Crazy George) made sure there was no misunderstanding the name change in the poster artwork he created for that year’s event and published in his annual Motorcycle Happenings Guide.
1989 was a big year for the Buffalo Chip, with Iron Butterfly, The Kingsmen, Easyriders Motorcycle Rodeo and Big Ed Beckley’s 10-vehicle jump topping a long list of activities. (At the bottom of that list in fine print–“Crazy George’s Lessons in BS, Body Painting and Consummate Conartistry.”)
The over-the-top event was well matched by an equally over-the-top poster, featuring model Lori Rajewich alongside “Chief,” a trained buffalo owned by local PRCA rodeo clown Jerry Olson. The pair was photographed on Olson’s property near False Bottom Creek in Lawrence County.
The Chip celebrated the historic 50th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally with Joe Walsh, Joan Jett, Tanya Tucker, Georgia Satellites, The Marshall Tucker Band, John Kay and Steppenwolf, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Robbie Kreiger of The Doors and more.
Wolfman Jack and Sam Kinison were also both in the lineup that year, and both ended up with stages named after them later on.
The Buffalo Chip commissioned legendary motorcycle airbrush artist “Kram” (Mark Gardner) to create the festival’s iconic event poster this year.
The Doobie Brothers, John Kay and Steppenwolf, Charlie Daniels, Firefall and many other fan favorites rocked what had now become a nine-day motorcycle and music festival in ’91.
In addition to these legendary acts, the Buffalo Chip focused much of its efforts on philanthropy, by building a Habitat for Humanity house right on site and hosting its first ever Freedom Celebration.
Kram again put his airbrush skills to work, creating the second poster in his two-part series for the Buffalo Chip.
Mötley Crüe, Blue Öyster Cult, Great White, Confederate Railroad, Black Oak Arkansas, Delbert McClinton and Zwarte kept the party going in 1994.
And when the music wasn’t playing, spectacles including Robert Foley’s Flaming Shithouse Jump and Big Ed Beckley’s Coffin Explosion kept everyone entertained.
The mid-‘90s brought about a new era of Buffalo Chip posters with its brand new Buffalo Chip Poster Model Search. Poster Model Madison posed for this shot at the famous Moonshine Gulch Saloon in Rochford, SD.
John Kay and Steppenwolf, Tim McGraw and Eric Burdon were among the many acts that kept motors running during the party in 1996.
Poster Model Search winner Layla made the first of her two consecutive poster appearances on this year’s event poster.
The variety of entertainment available to Buffalo Chip guests exploded in ’97, welcoming sideshow attractions like cole slaw wrestling and Reptile Gardens’ Snake & Gator Show.
Layla returned as poster model for a second year, this time sharing her seat with Woody Gerken, the official mascot of the newly developed World Federation Pickle Lickin’ Championship. The newly erected Kinison Stage would serve as home to this event for the next 20 years.
The now self-proclaimed Buffalo Chip house band Lynyrd Skynyrd made their very first appearance at the Best Party Anywhere in ’98, joining returning fan favorites John Kay and Steppenwolf, Blue Öyster Cult Black Oak Arkansas and others.
Poster Model Search winner Marina was all smiles during her shoot with a Shotgun Willie’s-themed ’95 Road King.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Buffalo Chip debut in 1998 blew rally goers away. Unfortunately, the storm the band played through nearly blew their members away as well. Feeling a bit uneasy about playing again on the Chip’s former main stage, the guys in the band let Woody know they wouldn’t be back until he built a new stage. So that’s what he did for 1999.
As South Dakota’s largest stage, the brand new Wolfman Jack Stage helped the Buffalo Chip secure more than just Skynyrd. Def Leppard, The Beach Boys, Poison, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Montgomery Gentry and others broke in the stage during concerts throughout the summer.
.38 Special recorded “Sturgis Live” from the Buffalo Chip’s new stage during their performance.
The peaceful campground scene featuring Poster Model Heather that’s depicted on the official 2000 Buffalo Chip poster was offset by some memorable main stage drama that year.
Young blues guitar phenom Jonny Lang topped the list of superstars to set foot at the Chip, and although she did not perform, Cher made an appearance on stage prior to this performance. While on stage, she mentioned her dinner date with President Clinton, and the audience booed her off stage. She gave them all the bird as she walked off.
On the night of the Styx and REO Speedwagon show, Robbie Knievel (Evel’s son) arrived unexpectedly and instructed Woody to build him a ramp to jump the main stage. Although the bands had already staged their shows for the night, Woody agreed. The crowd parted, leaving a 60-foot swath of open space, and Knievel sailed expertly just inches below the speakers, over the stage and pit, landing in a puff of dust.
The Buffalo Chip celebrated its 20th party in style with huge acts including Sheryl Crow, The Allman Brothers Band, Poison and Smash Mouth.
Big names in custom motorcycling also made their way to the Chip for the historic party, with Arlen Ness serving as Grand Marshal for the annual Buffalo Chip Charity Ride.
Model Crystal made her first of two non-consecutive appearances on the official Buffalo Chip Poster this year.
Several huge names made debuts on the Chip’s Wolfman Jack Stage in 2002 including Blues Traveler, Billy Idol and Cinderella.
On the event’s official poster, model Beth straddles the same ’95 Road King that first made an appearance with Marina in the ’97 poster. But this time the bike’s owner Al stands nearby to keep a close eye on his baby.
The lineup in ’03 was absolutely SMOKIN’, with Alice Cooper, Shinedown, Theory of a Deadman, Joe Bonamassa, Blue Öyster Cult, Three Doors Down and many others providing the soundtrack.
Equally as hot was poster model Crystal, who had won the Poster Model Search for a second year. The fine print at the bottom of the poster notes that the two bikers posing with Crystal at the Midway Roadhouse in Piedmont, SD are David Vice and Robert Post. It also inquires: “But, why are you looking at them?”
American Badass Kid Rock and That Little Ol’ Band from Texas, ZZ Top, both made their first appearance in 2004. They’ve been two of the most requested acts to have return ever since.
Poster model Erin sits below the now iconic “Welcome Home Bikers” gates that were first erected that year.
Journey, Shinedown, Tim McGraw, Twisted Sister, Disturbed and a host of other huge names made 2005 a party for the record books. But the show that everyone remembers from that year was Toby Keith.
As soon as the band got on stage it started raining cats and dogs. The wind blew 40 mph as lightening crashed all around, taking out an antenna on the roof of the stage. But despite the danger, Keith refused to shut things down. He gave every member of his band a $2,000 bonus for riding out the storm with him and presenting a concert that will long live in Buffalo Chip history.
Model Jenn chilled in the bathtub at Bikini Beach for her poster shoot. The area, known then as Emerald Pond and Bare Beach, was in the process of being developed that year.
Everything about the Buffalo Chip’s 25th anniversary party in 2006 was larger than life, from its band lineup to its brand new, eight-ton v-twin engine sculpture erected at what is now the Big Engine Bar at the CrossRoads.
2006 Poster Model Search winner Marcella basks in the glow of the stage lights next to this year’s legendary lineup.
In case you forgot where the part was in 2006, the 2007 Buffalo Chip poster and model Jessica were eager to remind you.
Toby Keith, Daughtry, ZZ Top, Velvet Revolver and Foreigner topped the list of bands rocking the rally from the Buffalo Chip’s main stage, and special guests including Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Robbie Knievel joined in on the fun.
A whole host of epic events and special guests joined the stellar music lineup in 2008. It was the first year of the Chip’s signature Legends Ride® celebrity charity event and the first time a presidential candidate made an appearance on stage.
During his Main Stage presentation, John McCain shocked the audience when he suggested that his wife Cindy should compete in the Miss Buffalo Chip Pageant so that she could be the only woman in history to be both First Lady and Miss Buffalo Chip.
The year was commemorated with a poster featuring model Jessica atop a stuffed buffalo.
2009 was another year of firsts for the Buffalo Chip. It was the inaugural year for the Pink & Proud Ride, which has now become the Biker Belles® Celebration, as well as the first year of the now world-renowned Motorcycles As Art™ Exhibit, curated by Michael Lichter.
It was the first and only time Chuck Berry and Buckcherry have shared the same lineup, as well as the only time a headliner has ever fallen off the Chip’s main stage.
When Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler took a wrong step and fell off the stage, everyone thought it was all part of the act until security rushed to his aid. He later admitted in his book that he was slightly over-medicated at the time.
Unlike Steven Tyler, 2009 poster model Marnie had a rope to keep her from falling into the Bikini Beach swimming hole that had become a major party spot by this time.
The Buffalo Chip pulled out all the stops for the 70th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally by booking icons from all across the entertainment spectrum, ranging from Bob Dylan to Peewee Herman.
One of the weirdest moments in Buffalo Chip history has to be when Peewee zip-lined onto the stage to recreate the classic “Tequila dance” scene from his film “Peewee’s Big Adventure” alongside the 2010 Miss Buffalo Chip contestants.
While everyone was watching big names like Ozzy Osbourne, the Godfather of Heavy Metal was busy watching model Holli on the official 2010 Buffalo Chip poster.
The Buffalo Chip celebrated 30 years strong in 2011, and model Holli posed for the poster atop the Klock Werks mini bagger built by Erika and Karlee Cobb to commemorate this anniversary.
The high-octane anniversary event also drew attention from the Travel Channel, who filmed “Sturgis – The Great Ride” on site during the festival.
There was a lot more to see than poster model Nikki outside of the Buffalo Chip gates in 2012, as this year marked the opening of the free-access CrossRoads.
Among other attractions, the area featured a stage with live music, acres of paved vendor shopping, bike shows, stunt shows, roller derby, and the v-twin engine sculpture that had been built in 2006.
Once they got a taste of the Chip by visiting the CrossRoads, many guests bought a pass to come inside the main grounds to see acts like Journey, Zac Brown Band, Eric Church and many others.
The Buffalo Chip welcomed Uhl Works to both its public art gallery and the new CrossRoads area in 2012. To celebrate this relationship, world-renowned artist David Uhl and designer Danial James of Uhl Works also partnered with the Buffalo Chip to create an original collectors series lithograph titled “Loud and Proud” commemorating the year.
The world turned its eyes on the Buffalo Chip in 2013 as Country Music Television was on site to film “Seven Nights of Badass” for CMT Bike Week.
Among other events, the series featured a full-length episode devoted to Clint Ewing’s Guinness World Record attempt at the longest motorcycle ride through a tunnel of fire. Another full-length episode featured Kid Rock’s legendary performance through a thunderstorm wherein lightning struck the Buffalo Chip’s water tower.
As if that wasn’t enough to get people’s attention, the Chip also gave away a Cory Ness-customized Victory Cross Country on stage, which you can see alongside model Ruby on the 2013’s commemorative poster.
While Mötley Crüe said goodbye to the Buffalo Chip in 2014 as part of the band’s farewell tour, hot new bands also stepped in to make their Chip debut.
Among these acts was The Pretty Reckless, whose front woman Taylor Momsen proclaimed the Chip to be “the best f***ing venue in the world” while on stage.
The award-winning track built at new Buffalo Chip PowerSports Complex that year helped expand Momsen’s distinction to a whole new area of activity beyond concerts.
And all of the excitement kept 2014 poster model Laramie smiling ear to ear.
The rally’s 75th anniversary at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip was truly a party for the record books, with a record number of guests and entertainment acts joining the celebration.
Nearly 60 bands took to the Chip’s stages that year, including Pop Evil, Red Sun Rising, and One: The Only Tribute to Metallica, who all headlined the Buffalo Chip’s first ever free Pre-Rally Party at the CrossRoads.
Daredevil Doug Danger also successfully set a world record—one that Evel Knievel® himself could not make–sailing over 22 cars in the Buffalo Chip amphitheater on Knievel’s own 1972 XR-750 as part of the Evel Knievel® Thrill Show.
A record number of women competed this 2015’s Poster Model Search, but it was ultimately Raven who landed herself on the poster commemorating this monumental year.
The Buffalo Chip celebrated its 35th year by bringing the rally back to its racing roots. A new hooligan track and drag strip built in the middle of the Chip’s amphitheater were the centers of activity for the Chip’s first ever Moto Stampede®.
Pop culture artist and viral sensation Jason Heuser brought to life the Buffalo Chip’s 2016 band lineup, the revelry of 35 years of Chip tradition and the American motorcycle spirit in a limited-edition poster to commemorate this year’s event.
This work provided an unconventional look at the iconic Buffalo Chip festival that prominently featured 2016 poster model Nena, as well as Kid Rock and Miranda Lambert atop a stampeding buffalo.
Racing came back and was bigger than ever in 2017 when American Flat Track added the AMA Pro Sturgis Buffalo Chip TT Grand National Championship Event to its series. Seven-time Grand National winner Chris Carr built an award-winning track in the amphitheater to host this nationally televised event.
The AFT races served as a one-of-a-kind opener for Shinedown, who shared the lineup you see on the poster with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, blink-182, Skynyrd, The Doobies and many others.
For the first time ever, the Buffalo Chip also commissioned artist EZ Wheelin’ to create a second poster to commemorate the Best Party Anywhere.
The extremely limited run of posters depicted two riders passing by iconic Bear Butte as they neared the giant buffalo sculpture that marks the entrance to the Chip. A silhouette of Ozzy can be seen in the night sky behind the entertainment lineup.
The Buffalo Chip again made its way into living rooms across the nation in 2018 when Discovery’s highly anticipated new season of “American Choppers” featured a bike built for the Legends Ride® in its first two episodes.
Paul Teutul Jr. captured the essence of both the Buffalo Chip and the entire Black Hills region, incorporating airbrushed scenes of free-roaming buffalo and Deadwood’s Historic Main Street into the design.
So it’s only fitting that the setting for the official 2018 poster was Deadwood.
After the success of the 2017 commemorative poster, the Buffalo Chip again commissioned EZ Wheelin’ to create a follow up. The design depicted the motorcycle, music, freedom and friendship that guests experience once inside the Buffalo Chip gates.
The design was so popular that it sold out in a matter of days.
Big plans are underway for the Best Party Anywhere in 2019. Do you think you have what it takes to be the face of the Buffalo Chip this year?
The Buffalo Chip’s annual Poster Model Search Presented by Bud Light is the perfect opportunity to showcase your looks and personality for a chance to score the rally’s most coveted modeling job.
Thanks to partners at KSKY, Henry Roy Photography, Black Hills Harley-Davidson and the Buffalo Chip Tattoo Café, you’ve got the chance to be featured on the official Buffalo Chip Poster Model poster, as well as countless advertisements, videos and magazine spreads.
In addition, you’ll reign as the 2019 Poster Model at the Buffalo Chip, meeting new people at fun events, signing posters as a rally celebrity and strutting your stuff at the industry’s hottest events.
Prizes include $2,000 cash, passes to concerts, a professional model shoot with Henry Roy Photography and more!
Which of these posters do you have hanging on your wall? Tell us in the comments below!
Presented by The Sturgis Buffalo Chip
Known as The Best Party Anywhere®, the Legendary Buffalo Chip believes festivals should be fun like a high five, reenergize you like a broken rule, and romance you like someone you just met and want to kiss.
This nine-day festival of concerts and motorcycle events promises to bring you exciting live performances from artists like Aerosmith, Willie Nelson, Five Finger Death Punch, Kid Rock, Rob Zombie, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Toby Keith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Mötley Crüe, Miranda Lambert, 3 Doors Down, ZZ Top, Sublime with Rome, Slash, and many more.
The Best Party Anywhere remains one of the most televised festivals in the world and has been featured on the Travel Channel, the Discovery Channel, CMT Bike Week, HISTORY, TLC, National Geographic and more.
Learn more at www.BuffaloChip.com.