Celebrities Power 2016 Sturgis Buffalo Chip Legends Ride

Arlen Ness Legends Ride 2016

The incomparable Arlen Ness rolls into the 2016 Legends Ride on his custom Victory Vision.

For the last nine years, the Sturgis Buffalo Chip has made giving back to the local community a priority via its annual Legends Ride. Buffalo Chip owner Rod Woodruff said he frequently heard how “the rally never did anything for the local folks.” As of last year, the annual benefit ride has bought the kids of the Black Hills Special Olympics a beautiful black bus to attend events and competitions in, a new gym for the kids is in the cross hairs next, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame has big plans on the horizon thanks to money raised by the event, the sum in the area of a half-million dollars before this year’s totals are tallied.

The procession of riders participating in the 2016 Legends Ride began congregating in front of Deadwood’s Franklin Hotel early Monday afternoon and didn’t stop until it was almost 300 motorcycles strong. Freestyle motocross legend Carey Hart came rumbling in on an Indian Chieftain in a show of support of the event. Not long after, the Ness family joined the party, Arlen and Cory on customized Victory Visions, while Zach rolled in on the wild twin-engined bagger his dad Cory built. R. Lee Ermey, affectionately known as “The Gunny,” soon joined the fray, the seasoned actor mingling and posing for plenty of pictures with the crowd. Ermey, a former Marine, was a big hit with veterans in attendance, which there were plenty. Josh Owens, the overall-wearing actor of Moonshiners fame walked arm-in-arm with a posse of Special Olympians, the affable character a big hit with the kids.

The Gunny Chris McGee Legends Ride 2016

The Gunny shares a story with emcee Chris McGee at the 2016 Legends Ride.

Tom Berenger, an Academy Award nominee known for his roles in “Platoon” and “Major League,” was another celebrity who lent his name to the cause. Berenger shared a funny story of his first motorcycle, a 450cc Honda, and how on one of his first rides he hit an oil patch, fishtailed and went down. He recalled getting chased by a German Shepherd on the same motorcycle.

Before long, the annual street-side auction struck up, the big ticket items a fully customized John Shope Signature 2015 Indian Chief Classic and a Rusty Jones Signature 2016 Victory Cross Country. (We’ve featured both motorcycles in American Iron Magazine.) The beauty of these bikes is the fact that they were built by local high school students under the guidance of mentors, the students learning both trade and life skills along the way. For these builds, Keith Terry of Terry Components and Randy Cramer of Dakota V-Twin led “Team Victory” while Chris Malo of Baggster headed “Team Indian” and the construction of the John Shope Signature Indian Chief.

Josh Owens and the Black Hills Special Olympians 2016 Legends Ride

Moonshiner Josh Owens hangs out with his friends of the Black Hills Special Olympics at the 2016 Legends Ride.

The auction was “Bidder’s Choice” giving the winner the option of either motorcycle. The students of the Buffalo Chip Challenge program who built the bikes helped stoke the flames of the friendly rivalry between “Team Victory” and “Team Indian,” as did the namesake builders John Shope and Rusty Jones.

When the auctioneer finally called out “Sold!” it was Tom Vasilaros of Santa Barbara, California, who put up the biggest bucks, his $32,000 bid earning him the right to choose which bike he’d be taking back to Cali. Wearing the unmistakable yellow t-shirt of the Hamsters Motorcycle Club, Vasilaros surprised few when he chose the Victory Cross Country with the vibrant yellow paint job. Bidding climbed almost as high the second-go-round before Fred Robinson from Dayton, Tennessee, sealed the deal with a $29,000 offer. Moonshiner Owens said he’d throw in a jug of his personal stash to sweeten the pot. Afterwards a smiling Robinson said “I’ve been wanting from something Shope for a long time.”

An Epiphone Les Paul Guitar signed by Zach, Cory and Arlen Ness and autographed by a handful of celebrities who came out for this year’s ride sold for $1500 while an original David Uhl painting, the artist’s name virtually still drying on the canvas, went for $1100. Jess and Heather Slaughter out of Texas are taking both home to the Lone Star State after winning the bidding war.

The Legends Ride festivities were just firing up, though. Riders soon mounted their motorcycles for a back roads ride through the scenic Black Hills to the Buffalo Chip’s CrossRoads for some scrumptious vittles and the opportunity to take home an array of items up for grabs at the secondary auction held at the reception. Legends riders wrapped up the night with a rockin’ set by the ultimate biker band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Southern rockers headlining a trio of acts on the Wolfman Jack Main Stage.

Lynyrd Skynyrd 2016 Sturgis Buffalo Chip

Lynyrd Skynyrd lit up the Wolfman Jack Stage Monday night at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip.