8 Shocking Moments in Buffalo Chip History

By Mary Panerio

If you’ve been to the party at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip, you know to expect the unexpected. As a party built By Bikers, For Bikers™, the Best Party Anywhere® has practically seen it all during its nearly 40-year run—surprise celebrity appearances, legendary South Dakota storms, and death-defying stunts, not to mention some serious blunders. So for better or for worse, here’s a look back at eight of the most shocking moments in Buffalo Chip History.

8. Cher Flips Off the Crowd – Friday, Aug. 11, 2000

People lost their minds when Cher walked out onto the newly constructed Wolfman Jack Stage to give away a Harley-Davidson 1200 Custom Sportster she had signed. But things took a turn for the worse when she announced she would be leaving after the appearance to meet President Clinton for dinner. The crowd started booing and she fired back with the one finger salute. Talk about going from America’s most wanted to America’s least wanted!

7. One contestant, “Boots,” climbed up one of the telephone poles – 1990

The party at the Chip during the 50th anniversary of the Sturgis Rally was chocked full of memorable moments, but the one that stands out above the rest comes from one of the first ever Miss Buffalo Chip contests. Before the days of the International Bikini Team, contestants in the Miss Buffalo Chip Pageant came right from the crowd. Bikers would pass a hat through the audience, and the girls would dance on stage to win all the money in the hat. One contestant, “Boots,” climbed up one the telephone poles at the front of the main stage to win her the contest. Surprisingly enough, she managed not to get any slivers!

6. The One-Hour Storm – Friday, Aug. 7, 2008

When it comes to South Dakota weather, it’s always best to come prepared. But no amount of planning could’ve prepared 2008 rally-goers for the One-Hour Storm. When sirens went off, a wall of white was already in plain sight only half a mile from the Chip. As the storm approached, campers could see hailstones hitting the ground with such force that they bounced three feet back in the air. Guests ran for cover, and it was a good thing they did, because the hail grew to be golf-ball-sized by the time the storm reached the campground.

5. The Junk Bike Meltdown – 1993

A few decades ago the Chip organized a series of annual bonfires so monumental, they would live on forever in infamy—The Junk Bike Meltdowns. Chip staff stacked junked bikes into a pile, lit ’em up and melted ’em down using a 1948 Rolls Royce Royal Air Force fighter jet engine that threw flames for 150 feet. This short-lived tradition went out with a blazing grand finale in ’93 when motorcycle daredevil Big Ed Beckley jumped his bike over the top of the burning pile.

4. The Flaming Shithouse Jump – Friday, Aug. 7, 1992

Some called him “The Road Warrior;” others called him “Jesus.” But on the day he flew through an outhouse filled with flames and feces, the one thing nobody called Robert Foley was “chicken.”

Foley made sure his motorcycle stunt was the real deal by enlisting volunteers to fill the shithouse and plant one and a half sticks of dynamite underneath the infamous, foul-smelling inferno. “I’ve had over 200 volunteers to shit in it already,” Foley proudly exclaimed prior to the jump. Despite poor odds, Robert Foley blasted through the target painted on the side of building and became a champion that would live on in Chip history forever.

3. The Tim McGraw Mudslide – 1994

When the highly anticipated Tim McGraw concert was rained out, one inventive group of bikers turned the rain and resulting muck into an opportunity to have some fun and turn the night around for everyone. They hiked up Stage Hill in the muck and began sliding and wrestling each other back down to the bottom as if the hill was a giant mud slide. Everyone wanted to join in the fun, so the epic mud slide grew and grew, continuing on till morning. The Chip converted the muddy mess that was left behind into the road that now runs behind Kinison Stage.

2. Senator John McCain Offers Up Wife for Miss Buffalo Chip – Monday, Aug. 4, 2008

Senator John McCain got lots of attention during his 2008 presidential campaign after famously announcing from the Chip stage that with a little luck, his wife Cindy “could be the only woman ever to serve as both the First Lady and Miss Buffalo Chip.” He won over many in the crowd that night, but national news sources including the New York Times, Huffington Post, MSNBC, CNN, CBS and even Bill O’Reilly were not about to let the senator live his statement down.

1. Steven Tyler Falls Off Stage – Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009

When Steven Tyler took a wrong step and fell off the stage during the 2009 Sturgis Rally, everyone (except maybe the fans he fell on) thought it was all part of the act. Just moments before, Tyler had been doing some signature dance moves at the end of the catwalk during “Love in an Elevator” to entertain guests while crews attended to a blown fuse. But after security rushed to Tyler’s aid, the crowd slowly began to realize this was the real deal, and concern grew among fans. Everyone roared with excitement when security helped Tyler back onto stage, but Tyler had received a shoulder injury and had to be rushed to the Rapid City hospital.

Wondering what kind of epic surprises the Buffalo Chip has in store for the upcoming Sturgis Rally? Don’t miss out on your chance to say you were there when the Chip adds another memorable moment to the list! Reserve your passes now to get in on the party!

What’s your most memorable moment from past parties at the Buffalo Chip? Is there something we’ve left off this list that you think we should add? Let us know 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 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.